The Wisconsin State Assembly had its final floor day for the fall legislative session on Tuesday. While I'm proud that we approved dozens of good bills, I'm also disappointed with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Assembly Democrats refused to take up Senate Bill 6, which requires at least an 18-month prison sentence for fifth and sixth OWI offenses. Under the bill, if judges want to impose a shorter sentence, they must explain their justification in writing. Current law requires only six months in prison for these convictions.
As we head into the holiday season, I think it's important that we send a strong message to repeat offenders: stay off our roads. This legislation would be another deterrent and keep dangerous offenders behind bars for a longer period of time.
According to the Department of Transportation, there were 9,535 drivers who had five OWI convictions and 4,138 drivers with six OWI convictions in 2015. In addition, 5,121 individuals who were driving under the influence were involved in crashes that year. These numbers are downright scary. Too many Wisconsinites have had their lives impacted by a drunk driver.
Since Assembly Democrats wouldn't agree to vote on the bill on Tuesday, the legislation will now have to be considered on a future floor session day next year. I think we all agree that tougher penalties are needed now and this was a missed opportunity to improve the safety of our roadways.