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Thumbs Up/Down for Monday, April 7, 2014

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April 7, 2014

A few hits and a miss among legislative proposals as the state Senate wrapped up work last week so lawmakers have plenty of time to campaign before the fall election:

Thumbs up to tax credit portability. It was great to see Gov. Scott Walker sign this bill Wednesday at Forward Janesville. After all, the legislation was long a goal of the local business development organization and Rock County. Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, was co-author. Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, concerned that an earlier version lacked accountability, also supported this version, as did other area lawmakers. The bill sets aside $15 million for the next three years to foster economic development. Essentially, it allows a company that can’t that use the tax advantage to transfer the benefit to a company that helped it and could use it. The credits serve as another tool in the box for growing our economy.

Thumbs down to not raising Interstate speeds to 70 mph. Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, steered through the Assembly his bill to raise the limit on Wisconsin’s Interstate highways from 65 to 70 mph. Unfortunately, it died without action in the Senate. Wisconsinites like to think of the Badger State as progressive. Wisconsin remains in the slow lane and even backward, however, on Interstate speeds. Last year, Gov. Pat Quinn approved raising the top speed in Illinois to 70. That means Wisconsin is the lone state between Pennsylvania and Oregon stuck at 65 mph. Drivers in some states cruise even faster than 70. The change would have given more drivers the opportunity to reach jobs or vacation destinations more quickly without breaking the speed law. It would have made salespeople who spend many hours on the road more efficient. It would have given companies chances to improve commerce by moving goods and services quicker.

Thumbs up to bills targeting heroin use. The state Senate last week unanimously passed the last two bills that were among six introduced by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, to combat heroin use. One would create regional treatment centers. The other would require state corrections officials to enact a system of quick sanctions to get offenders who violate parole or probation into treatment faster. The Assembly passed these bills in February, and all six have been sent to Gov. Scott Walker for signatures. Given the epidemic of heroin across Wisconsin, officials need all the resources they can get to fight this spreading scourge and save lives.

Thumbs up to changing reviews of police custody deaths. A measure that passed the Senate last week on a voice vote and has been sent to Gov. Walker would end the long practice of letting police agencies investigate deaths involving their own officers. This happens more often than you might think. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that agencies in Milwaukee County had 18 people die while in custody in the five years ending in 2012. At least 10 of those victims had medical or psychiatric conditions that were left untreated or improperly monitored, the report found. None of these triggered criminal charges against an officer, and discipline resulted only twice. In the wide majority of cases, law officers do their best to save lives while putting their own at risk daily. When an agency investigates itself, however, it naturally leaves doubt and raises questions, particularly among loved ones, about fairness and bias. The bill would require at least two outside investigators to lead probes into deaths. That makes sense.



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