Thumbs up to criminalizing first OWI. Wisconsin is the only state--yes, the only one--not to treat a first drunken driving offense as a crime. The state's permissive drinking culture and powerful alcohol industry are largely to blame, but a Republican-sponsored bill would end this notorious distinction. We hope it passes. Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling are proposing to make a first offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 and 30 days in jail. Criminalizing a first OWI makes clear to Wisconsinites the seriousness of drunken driving. Of course, some people never learn, and so the state still would need to combat drunken driving through other measures. Criminalizing a first offense should have happened about three decades ago, but better late than never.
Thumbs up to Jimmy Buffett returning to Alpine Valley. Parrotheads rejoiced this month upon learning Jimmy Buffett is returning to Alpine Valley. His July 20 show will be his first at Alpine Valley since 2016, and his absence in 2017 factored in Alpine Valley's closing that year. Alpine Valley's comeback this summer will also include Hootie & the Blowfish and Phish. Now all Alpine Valley needs is for Dave Matthews and the Grateful Dead (now Dead & Company) to return, and the resurrection will be complete. Granted, there will be a lot more gray hair in the crowds than during the concert venue's heyday. But age has never slowed the parrotheads, who live daily by the wisdom of "Cheeseburger in Paradise," meaning they are "makin' the best of every virtue and vice."
Thumbs down to shutting down E-Verify. One of the ironies of the partial government shutdown is it has shuttered the federal system, called E-Verify, that allows employers to check their employees' legal status. Some of the same Republicans claiming a "crisis" at the southern border seem oddly unperturbed over employers losing access to this proven web-based system. They also seem content to keep E-Verify voluntary rather than mandate its use for all employers in every state. Congress members parroting President Trump's demands for border wall money need to consider all the causes of illegal immigration. Until employers stop hiring illegal immigrants, illegal immigrants will continue to have an incentive to cross the border or overstay their visas (not a problem solved by a wall).
Thumbs up to bipartisan progress on education funding. While partisanship has cast a near-unbreakable spell over Congress and the president, a bipartisan task force studying education funding offers Wisconsin a glimmer of hope. It's only a "glimmer" because there's a huge gulf between the findings of a task force and the policies a Legislature would adopt in response to those findings. Co-chaired by a Republican, Sen. Luther Olsen, the task force calls for higher spending on public education and a return to the state picking up two-thirds of the local school funding tab. We hope these findings lead to other opportunities for compromise, namely on transportation funding. Gov. Tony Evers campaigned on pursuing "common ground," and now seems like his big chance.