- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - One of the most prominent anti-drunken driving groups in the country is urging Gov. Scott Walker to veto a bill that would allow judges to place offenders in a sobriety testing program rather than force them to drive with ignition interlocks.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President Colleen Sheehey-Church sent the governor a letter Thursday urging him to kill the proposal, warning that sobriety checks won’t stop drunken drivers from getting behind the wheel.

“This legislation weakens Wisconsin’s drunk driving law,” Sheehey-Church wrote. “Alcohol testing alone does not stop a drunk driver from driving … Ignition interlocks offer the only technology available that overrides the dangerous decision to drink and drive.”

Asked what Walker might do, his spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said only that the governor was reviewing the bill.

Wisconsin law requires judges to order drivers who refuse breath tests as well as first-time drunken drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent or higher and repeat offenders to install interlock devices in their vehicles.

The Republican-authored bill would allow a judge to place offenders who otherwise would have to use an interlock device in county-run programs that require at least twice-daily sobriety tests. The bill’s authors, Rep. Michael Schraa of Oshkosh and Sen. Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac, argued that offenders wouldn’t have to pay for both participating in a sobriety program and using an interlock device.

“For someone coming off of the expense of an OWI conviction, possibly including jail time, and possibly out of work, that could be a lot of money,” Gudex wrote to the Assembly criminal justice committee in February.

The Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers, MADD and the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association all registered against the bill, according to state Government Accountability Board records. The only group registering in support was Intoximeter, Inc., which produces sobriety-testing instruments.

The Assembly passed the bill in February on a voice vote, a procedure used for non-contentious bills. The Senate followed suit on a voice vote earlier this month, sending the bill to Walker.

“MADD has no problem with (sobriety check) programs but we do have problem if it replaces interlocks,” Frank Harris, MADD’s state government affairs director, said in an interview Friday. “We just want to stop people from driving drunk again.”

Gudex’s chief-of-staff, Tim Lakin, said in an email that offenders would still have to use interlock devices after they complete the sobriety program and interlocks aren’t a guarantee that drunken drivers won’t drive since they could use their friends’ cars.

“It’s frustrating,” Lakin said in an email, “that MADD would be opposed to getting those addicted to alcohol the help they need … and the sobriety program is that help.”

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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