Gov. Evers to sign first responder safety measures into law; will sign bill in Amherst on Monday

By Heather Poltrock

AMHEST, Wis. (WSAW) - Gov. Tony Evers is scheduled to be in Amherst Monday morning to sign 2021 AB 297 into law

The governor will be joined by Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point and other local elected leaders, first responders, roadside assistance workers, and construction and utility workers.

This bill was initiated when Amherst Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Swan reached out to Rep. Katrina Shankland and other area legislators to discuss first responder safety during roadside responses. Assistant Chief Swan and Amherst Fire Chief Victor Voss were the driving force behind this bill, and Plover and Stevens Point Fire Departments also came to the Capitol to lend their support as it moved through the legislative process.

According to a news release from Rep. Shankland, the bill creates a new emergency response zone and strengthens penalties for traffic violations like reckless driving in areas where emergency or roadside response vehicles are present and personnel are at risk from traffic. The legislation would also ban cell phone use while driving within the area of an incident and would mirror the penalties for speeding, cell phone use, and other infractions in a construction zone. Finally, the bill requires the DOT to educate the public about these changes and the risks associated with failing to move over, reduce speed, and using their cell phones in emergency response areas.