January 29, 2015

Lawmakers looking at ‘five strikes’ OWI legislation

Wisconsin Capitol Building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin Capitol Building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Getting five drunk driving convictions could result in a lengthy suspension of your license, under legislation being crafted at the state Capitol.

The bill would create a “five strikes and you’re out” approach to dealing with drunk drivers – after a fifth conviction, you would lose your license for at least ten years. State Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay), a co-sponsor of the proposal, says “people make mistakes and have some bad judgment, but at a certain point, I think we need to recognize that some of these more irresponsible drivers have lost that privilege.”

The legislation was originally modeled after a law in New York, which permanently revokes the license of repeat offenders. Genrich says feedback on the bill suggested that would not be the best approach in Wisconsin, so they adopted provisions of an Alaskan law that allows someone who keeps a clean record for ten years and undergoes a drug and alcohol assessment to potentially drive again.

Current law does already allow for some drunk drivers to lose the ability to legally get behind the wheel, although that does not stop some of them from driving anyway. Gengrich admits that’s a concern, however he argues that “I don’t think that percentage is 100…if we’re able to reach a significant minority within that population, that would be a huge step forward.”

Genrich says he hopes to introduce the bill later this session.

Cowles: teacher licensing doesn’t belong in budget

Governor Scott Walker is getting some push-back from a member of his own party – over a plan to create a new teachers license. State Senator Rob Cowles says the idea of creating a new teachers licensing program for people with “real world” experience does not belong in the budget.

“If you plunk something like this in the state budget, it’s going to get short shrift,” said Cowles. “Now, is it the right thing to do? I don’t know. But that’s a policy decision that deserves to have public hearings, to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

Cowles said it’s going to be hard enough to deal with the projected two-point-two billion dollar deficit without having to consider policy items. “Stick to the finances. We have enough trouble in this budget with finances. There’s a signficant shortfall.”

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported on Friday that the state has a $283 million deficit in the current fiscal year, in addition to a roughly $2.2 billion deficit the state is facing in the next budget biennium, based on current agency requests.

The governor unveiled the teacher licensing proposal, along with some other budget initiatives, last week. He’ll propose his full budget next week.

“These are the kinds of things that should not be in the state budget,” said Cowles. “They should go to the respective committees in the Assembly and the Senate, and we should have a chance to think about them.”

One dead in Clark County plane crash

One person is dead and two injured after a small plane crashed near Owen Monday morning. FAA Spokesman Tony Molinaro said the Cessna 182 was flying from Menominee, Michigan to Litchfield, Minnesota when it crashed in Clark County around 11 a.m. Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Manager Charity Speich said they were notified that the plane was in trouble and was going to try to land in Eau Claire, but it never arrived.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Department said the pilot and one person were injured and a third person died at the scene. Initial reports are that the pilot tried to circle the area and land on Center Road, but the wing caught a tree and the plane crashed into some trees in the town of Hoard, northeast of Owen.  The Sheriff’s Department said weather is believed to be a factor in the crash. No names have been released.


Wisconsin Democrats call for budget repair bill

Sen. Jennifer Shilling

Sen. Jennifer Shilling

Wisconsin Democrats on Monday called out the governor on the budget shortfall, on the heels of Scott Walker’s first significant foray into the Iowa presidential run-up. “While he is out there interviewing for his next job, it is really important that we focus here at home,” Senator Jennifer Shilling said. The La Crosse Democrat said a projected shortfall in the current budget year is more than enough to trigger a budget repair bill.

“Clearly the trigger has been met with this $283 million deficit, and I think that we need to act on this rather than saying this is going to fix itself. It clearly is not going to fix itself.”

The numbers, released Friday by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, are more than double the $132 million shortfall which Walker’s administration projected in November. That’s in addition to a roughly $2.2 billion deficit the state is facing in the next budget biennium, based on current agency requests. The news came just prior to Walker’s high-profile appearance at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines.

The state has had deficits in the past, including under former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. “It has nothing to do with the last budget deficit coming under Jim Doyle,” state Democratic party chair Mike Tate responded, when asked about Democratic responses to that. “The last budget deficit came when virtually every other state in the country had a budget deficit, due to the massive cratering of the economy. This is the budget deficit that Scott Walker made.”

Walker for his part has already said he won’t be issuing a budget repair bill. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement on Friday that “Wisconsin will finish the biennium with a balanced budget.” The state constitution requires a balanced budget, meaning the deficit will have to be eliminated by the end of June.

Ice safety remains a concern on Lake Winnebago

In the wake of a tragic accident on Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh over the weekend ice conditions on the lake remain unpredictable.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Sergeant Jeff Bonack said he checks regularly with a local fishing club. Bonack said the ice has improved since earlier in the season. “The reports he’s been giving me is that the ice seems generally okay,” he said. “That being said, our stance at the sheriff’s office is there’s never 100 percent safe ice, and there’s always a level of danger going out onto a frozen surface.”

Bonack said there all types of ice, including ‘white ice’ that has air built up in it and can be dangerous, dark solid ice which is safest or honey-combed ice which can have water moving through it. He said the fishing club he gets reports from looks for “a good foot of solid ice.”

A 40-year-old Sussex man and his 8-year-old son went through the ice Sunday with their jeep. Both Andrew and Derek Doro were taken to hospitals. They both died.