The Wisconsin state Senate passed legislation enacting tougher penalties on drunk drivers in Wisconsin. The bill differed from a similar measure which the state Assembly passed in September, and while the Assembly failed to concur with the Senate bill Thursday night, leaders in that chamber pledged to move the issue forward.
Both bills would makes a fourth OWI offense a felony for some drivers with previous OWIs, criminalize first offense OWI if kids are in the vehicle, and expand use of ignition interlock devices and alcohol treatment for some offenders.
The Senate bill would have paid for all that with increases in the fees drunk drivers are assessed. The Senate earlier this week dropped a proposed increase in the state’s liquor tax which had been part of the bill. “It moves that cost onto the people who are out there causing the problems,” Sullivan said Thursday. “It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
“From the start the Senate and the Assembly have been in agreement we must make drunken driving reform a priority,” said Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan in a statement released by his office. “We agree on most of the major steps needed to tackle this problem. But, this issue is too important to let the calendar dictate the timetable. We feel it’s critical to include treatment options and a stable funding source. We will sit down with the Senate in the coming days and work out the minor differences and are more than willing go into extraordinary session to get this important work done.”