November 10, 2014

Drunken driving bills found diverse ways to die

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Despite arrests, fines, convictions and prison time, many Wisconsin drivers continue to drink and drive. The Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team in cooperation with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in Madison is documenting the pervasive problem of repeat drunken driving that plagues this state in an eight-day series, Under the Influence.

Read the series here.

More than a dozen bills aimed at addressing drunken driving in Wisconsin were introduced in the 2013-14 legislative session. Almost all failed to pass. (For a list of bills and outcomes, see this article at WisconsinWatch.org.) Here are some examples. The first four bills listed here were authored by Republicans, the last two by Democrats.

AB 68: Would have made first-offense operating while intoxicated a crime (OWI) for those testing at about twice the legal limit, and toughened penalties for second offenses. An amendment axed these provisions, but would have made second offenses a crime even if they do not occur within 10 years of a first. The amended bill passed the state Assembly, 88-7, but was never taken up by the Senate.

AB 69: Called for mandatory minimum sentences for OWI offenders who cause various degrees of injury. It was backed by law enforcement and opposed as an unfunded mandate by the Wisconsin Counties Association. An Assembly committee recommended passage 7-2 but the bill never came up for a vote in either house.

AB 72: Would have allowed judges to seize motor vehicles used in third and subsequent OWI offenses. Several lobby groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Wisconsin Troopers Association registered in support; none registered in opposition. An Assembly committee recommended passage 9-0, but the bill never came up for a vote.

AB 467: Barred people required to install ignition interlock devices from driving any vehicle without it. The bill had lobby support from MADD, law enforcement and the Coalition for Ignition Interlock Manufacturers; there were no registered opponents. Hearings were held in both houses and the bill passed the state Assembly. There was no Senate vote.

AB 738: Mandated that all persons convicted of OWI install ignition interlock devices, even first offenders without super-high BAC levels. Was supported by MADD but opposed by the Tavern League of Wisconsin. The bill never had a hearing or vote in either house.

AB 846: Would have ended Wisconsin’s distinction as the only state in the nation where first-offense OWI is not a crime. Was introduced late in the session; no group registered in support or opposition. No action in either house.