Wisconsin bills target drunken drivers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/8/2013

 Multiple bills under review at the Wisconsin statehouse are intended to make the state’s roadways a little safer.

Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, are pushing to get new rules passed that would create three new penalties for people caught operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The first bill goes after the state’s worst-of-the-worst drunken driving offenders. AB71 would result in third OWI offenses becoming felonies.

Two more bills would set up mandatory minimum sentences for offenders who cause injury or death. AB69 would increase penalties for injuring someone in a drunken driving wreck. Specifically, offenders would face between six months and three years behind bars.

AB70 calls for mandatory 10-year prison sentences for anyone who kills another person while driving drunk.

Ott said the legislation is intended to send a message to potential offenders.

“If the bills don’t deter bad behavior, there’s no point in doing them,” Ott said in a news release.

The price tag for the Department of Corrections to accommodate the changes is estimated at between $158 million and $226 million each year. Another $236 million would be needed for building new facilities.

Some lawmakers say they share the concerns of the bill sponsors about drunken driving, but the state’s expenses to make the changes are a concern.

The bill package is scheduled to get a public hearing on Aug. 15 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wisconsin, click here.

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