Lawmakers hear emotional testimony on drunk driving legislation - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers hear emotional testimony on drunk driving legislation

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MADISON (WKOW) -- In her testimony to state lawmakers Thursday, Marla Hall told a story 27 News has been following for months.

Hall told members of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety details about the death of her 26 year-old son Clenton Hall - one of four people who died at the hands of a drunk driver on I-94 near Deerfield last November.

"The thought of me living the rest of my life without him is horrible," Hall told legislators.

33 year-old Brysen Wills had a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit when authorities say he caused the crash that killed Hall and his girlfriend.

But under current state law, Wills would not face any mandatory minimum prison sentence if convicted.

"I have heard enough instances in which the sentence may be as little as one or two years for killing someone. I think this is an outrage," said Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), who testified on behalf of three bills he's introduced, one which would establish a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for OWI Homicide.

Rep. Ott introduced another bill that would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for 5th and 6th offense OWI from six to 18 months.

"There should be no tolerance for repeat drunk drivers," said Adam Gerol, Ozaukee County District Attorney, who testified in support of the measure.

But if there is one concern, it is the same thing that has stopped previous bills like these Rep. Ott has introduced - cost.

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said he was shocked the Wisconsin Department of Corrections was not asked to prepare a fiscal estimate on how much the 5th and 6th offense OWI bill would add to prison costs.

"And this bill - to my estimate - would increase the need by over 20 million dollars a year," Rep. Goyke.

Rep. Ott said Goyke used a flawed premise to arrive at that number, saying it was overblown.

But Marla Hall told legislators even if the extra prison time would cost the state more money, there are ways to pay for it.

Hall said it is time to increase the 6 cent per gallon tax on beer, which is the 48th lowest rate in the nation.

"We have one of the lowest beer taxes in the country, along with the wine and liquor," said Hall.

A final bill would close a loophole for people caught driving without an interlock ignition device before their license is restored.

If a person ordered to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle once their driver's license is restored is caught driving without one, they face a specific penalty for that.

But that is not the case if they are caught driving without an ignition interlock device before their license is restored, instead only being subject to a penalty for driving without a license.

The legislation would add the penalty for driving without an interlock ignition device for such offenders caught driving without a license as well.
None of the bills have been scheduled for a committee vote yet.

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