Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday An Important Day For Legislators, Milwaukee, And Motorists

Wednesday shapes up as a big day at the Capitol because a special legislative session will deal with major public policy issues.

Legislators will pass, with holy pictures and overheated rhetoric all 'round, a bill that makes modest changes to the state's embarrassingly soft drunken driving statutes.

Some first-time offenders will actually be charged with a misdemeanor, but most will still get a ticket, leaving Wisconsin as the only state in the country to be so lax.

And some repeat offenders will be hit with a felony charge upon a fourth conviction.

And there will be wider use of mandatory, breath-activated ignition locks for some repeat offenders.

But legislators caved to the liquor lobbies and settled for these modest reforms even though Wisconsin has very high rates of OWI arrests and fatalities, leaving the roadways here far too dangerous.

Then there is the matter of turning the Milwaukee Public Schools over to the Mayor in what would be a major shift in local political, social and taxing power.

It is unclear if there are the votes to get the measure to the floor for consideration because there have been no hearings yet, and because the issue has been so divisive in Milwaukee.

I'd be surprised if the measure makes it to the floor: legislators are deeply risk-averse, and doing little or nothing is easier than moving boldly.

The small changes in the state's drunken driving statutes to be enacted Wednesday prove that.

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