December 22, 2014

Wisconsin DMV touts reduced wait times

Your wait times are down at the DMV. Christina Boardman, deputy administrator at the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles, said wait times are good at service centers around the state. “DMV is always looking to make best use of peoples’ time,” she said. “If you need to come into a service center, the wait times are really good, with eighty four percent of our people being served in 20 minutes or less.” averaging twenty minutes or less.

Much of the enhanced efficiency can be attributed to the many services now available on-line, including getting vehicle titles, changing addresses, and renewing plates. “We’re really been trying the last few years to modernize the DMV, and to respond to custormers’ interests in how they want to receive their service,” Boardman said.

A big demand on DMV is scheduling road tests for first-time drivers, and Boardman said they responded to customer feedback, and developed a way to predict future demand and allocate resources to provide road tests at the most desirable time.

Wisconsin may regulate kickboxing

The Wisconsin legislature may tackle regulations for kickboxing. The state has long regulated boxing, and in more recent years, mixed martial arts. But state Senator Dave Hansen said there’s been a problem. “We established rules and regulations for MMA, and it does not apply to kickboxing, so a number of promoters moved into kickboxing where they could hold events at much less cost,” said the Green Bay Democrat.

Hansen credits the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with bringing attention the issue. One kickboxer has died, and a cognitively disabled man was coaxed into fighting. “Originally we thought we could just simply roll it into the MMA law, but now we’ve been told the sport would require its own set of rules,” said Hansen, who notes that Republican state Representative Joel Kleefisch has also voiced support for legislation. Hansen is optmistic that a bill will be drafted in the upcoming legislative session.

Wisconsin headed into peak flu season

Wisconsin is headed into the peak of what is shaping up to be a challenging flu season. Tom Haupt, influenza surveillance coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said reported hospitalizations due to influenza have increased steadily the past two weeks. There were 252 confirmed hospitalizations as of Friday, December 12.

“I can tell you, looking at the statistics, there’s going to be a big increase this week as well,” Haupt said. “About 62% percent of the hospitalizations have been among the elderly population.”

Most of the cases have been influenza H-3, and this year’s vaccine has not been as effective against that strain. Still, Haupt said it’s still a good idea to get the shot. “I always use the analogy that, if you go out in the middle of winter and it’s ice-cold, even a light jacket will give you some protection, versus having no jacket at all,” he said.

“Bottom line is I think this is going to be a bad influenza year,” said Dr. Jon Tempte at the UW Department of Family Medicine. “The predominant virus in circulation tends to be one that causes much more in the way of hospitalization, more complications of underlying medical conditions, and unfortunately causes more deaths than some of the other strains do.”

Haupt with DHS said that – based on observations – he expects the peak in flu cases to arrive with the New Year, with high activity continuing for another month or so.

Wisconsin Supreme Court won’t take up raw milk case

Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger’s 2013 conviction for selling raw milk will be allowed to stand. Without explaining why, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to consider whether Hershberger was properly convicted, after he violated an order from state inspectors.

The holding order at the center of Hershberger’s appeal came from state agriculture inspectors in 2010, who raided his Sauk County farm and ordered him to stop selling his product. Prosecutors argued that he continued to violate the order though, which resulted in additional charges. While he was convicted of violating the holding order and fined $1,000, Hershbergrer was found not guilty on charges that he was selling food, producing milk, and operating a dairy plant without the proper state licenses.

Hershberger appealed the conviction, arguing that he was not allowed to present evidence at trial that would have helped his case and that an unedited copy of the holding order was kept out of evidence. The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with the circuit court’s decision to keep Hershberger from making what amounted to a “collateral attack” on the factual basis for the holding order, keeping his conviction in place.

Hershberger also argued that he was not subject to state rules against selling unpasteurized milk because his hundreds of buyers were in a private club that did not sell the product to the general public. The appeals court rejected that argument.

Environmental groups file suit against Wisconsin DNR

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit, accusing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with failing to update the state’s air quality regulations to tougher federal standards. Elizabeth Wheeler is staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin, one of two groups that have filed the suit, claiming air quality enforcement and permitting in Wisconsin continues under “outdated, inadequate standards.”

“The state of Wisconsin is expected to update our code whenever a federal standard is updated, so that our permitting program is in alignment with federal requirements,” Wheeler said.

But Pat Stevens with the DNR said the largest air pollution sources are already meeting the federal standards, and that air quality in the state is good. As for the new federal standards, “all these are a work in progress, in terms of the state moving forward and getting these (regulations) on to the state books,” Stevens said.

The lawsuit seeks to force the DNR to order the updates and put a hold on all pending air permits until that happens. Clean Wisconsin says the state’s lax standards have led to more health problems, including more asthma among children.