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Drunk driving bills pass in Assembly

The Assembly approved bills Tuesday that would enact tougher drunk driving laws in Wisconsin.

With little debate, the Assembly approved three bills designed to deter drunk driving. Speaking before the vote, Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, the author of the legislation, said it will make substantial improvement. He said making first-time offenders appear in court in all counties, not just some, will hold people accountable. Another of his bills eliminates the look-back period for repeat offenders.

"I think basically we have way, way, way too much drunk driving in Wisconsin and passing tougher laws is one part of the puzzle," said Ott.

In addition to new penalties for second and fourth time drunk drivers, a bill was passed on voice vote aimed at those ordered to install an ignition lock but fail to do so or those who tamper with it. Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, a candidate for attorney general, said ignition devices can be effective when used properly.

"People who have ignition interlock devices are 67 percent less likely to re-offend," said Richards. "That is a great success story. Wisconsin is now one of the leading states on the installation of interlock devices. We now rank 11th in the nation."

However, Wisconsin consistently ranks high for binge drinking and drinking while driving. Wisconsin is also the only state where first-offense drunk driving is not a crime.

The bills still have to be passed by the Senate in order to become law.