Increased penalties for drunk drivers have unanimously cleared the state Assembly.

On a 95-0 vote Thursday, the Assembly approved legislation that makes 4th offense OWI a felony, expands treatment programs, and requires repeat offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles.

State Representative Tony Staskunas (D-West Allis), a sponsor of the measure, says it’s a comprehensive bill that tries to address a problem in Wisconsin. While he admits it may not go as far as some anti-drunk driving groups wants, he believes it will start the process of passing additional reforms in the Legislature.

During debate in the Assembly, several lawmakers reflected on loved ones killed by drunk drivers. State Representative Kim Hixson (D-Whitewater) remembered losing his girlfriend at the age of 18. He says it seems so unfair that she missed out on all the joys of life because someone acted irresponsibly and got behind the wheel after drinking.

State Representative Louis Molepske (D-Stevens Point) says the bill addresses an issue that touches every Wisconsin county, with thousands of OWI arrests in the state each year.

The bill now heads to the state Senate.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:01)

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