Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Assembly Passes Drunk Driving Reform Package

Oshkosh-Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) voted for the Drunk Driving Reform package today which was voted on by the Assembly during an Extraordinary Session. The package passed today addressed minor differences between Assembly and Senate reform bills passed earlier this year, and make significant changes to our state’s drunk driving laws.

“I am happy the Legislature has worked to address our state’s drunken driving problem. While there is no single solution to end this reckless behavior, the comprehensive approach taken in the amended SB 66, acknowledges the importance of treatment, diversion, and other tools that can help reduce recidivism.”

A main component of this Drunk Driving reform is the adoption of the Safe Streets Treatment Options Program (SSTOP) that has been successful in Winnebago County. This program has been very successful at lowering recidivism of offenders while reducing jail costs. SSTOP offers people convicted of a second or third OWI offense the option of having their prison period reduced if they complete a period of probation that includes alcohol and drug treatments. In Winnebago County this has led to a savings of over $700,000 and has a recidivism rate of 7% compared to the statewide rate of 50% since its inception in December of 2006.

“Winnebago County has been a statewide leader in smarter more effective ways to deal with OWI offenses,” said Rep. Hintz “At a time when county jails are at capacity and looking to lower costs, this model can be a blueprint for counties around the state. I am pleased to see that what has made Winnebago County successful is included into this reform bill.”

The Drunk Driving Reform package is a multi-pronged approach to address this troubling trend. The legislation is aimed at offering treatment options, preventing individuals from operating while intoxicated (OWI), and increasing penalties for drunk driving. The Drunk Driving Reform package will make a fourth OWI offense a felony if the driver has a previous OWI-related conviction, suspension, or revocation within the past five years. The bill would also criminalize the first offense OWI if children are in the vehicle.

“For years, the Legislature has failed to make progress on a number of important issues including drunk driving. I am proud to see this legislation pass today, and commend the Assembly leadership for a successful first year passing of bills stalled for years such as a statewide smoking ban, puppy mill regulations, and public financing for state supreme court races.”


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