Senator LeMahieu Introduces First Two Legislative Bills
By Devin LeMahieu
With the 2015-17 legislative session now underway, I am excited to announce the first two legislative proposals that I will be introducing: Increasing Wisconsin’s maximum speed limit to 70 mph and raffle reform legislation.
Last session my friend and colleague, Rep. Paul Tittl of Manitowoc, introduced legislation to raise the speed limit to 70 mph, but it failed to pass the Senate despite bipartisan support. This session, I am happy to serve as the Senate lead. I know some people are concerned that increasing the speed limit is unsafe, but when you look at the facts and the history of the speed limit in the state, it’s a no-brainer.
In 1973, the federal government set a maximum speed limit of 55 mph, largely to conserve fuel during the energy crisis. Prior to 1973 Wisconsin actually had roads with a speed limit of 70 mph. In 1995, when the federal regulations were abolished, Wisconsin set our state limit at 65 mph.
Given that technology has changed since then and vehicles today are much safer, many states have decided to increase their respective speed limits since 1995. Right now Wisconsin remains as the only state in the Midwest (and one of the few in the country) with a speed limit under 70 mph.
I also would not support this change if I believed it to be unsafe. When Illinois and Iowa raised their speed limit to 70 mph, traffic fatalities decreased the following year in both states. Also In 2005, after Indiana raised their speed limit, a study conducted at Purdue University concluded that the increased speed limit did not increase fatalities or injuries on roadways.
Finally, a key aspect of this bill is that it places the decision of raising the speed limit on particular highways in the hands of the traffic safety experts at the Department of Transportation (DOT). The bill gives DOT the flexibility to raise the limit only on highways in which they determine it to be safe.
Another bill I’m authoring relates to raffle reform. I surprisingly heard a lot about this issue during my campaign last fall. Across the district, members of various non-profit organizations approached me with concerns about the current raffle process in our state.
Unfortunately, our current raffle rules and regulations are confusing and over-burdensome to many organizations. The goal of the Raffle Reform Bill I am introducing is to streamline, update, and improve the charitable raffle process in our state, while maintaining transparency and fairness, to make it easier for non-profit organizations to conduct raffles. These common sense changes will allow charitable organizations, such as veteran groups and local service organizations, to raise more funds and better our communities.
Last session, Senator Leibham championed this issue and it received large bi-partisan support as it passed through both houses of the legislature. However, the bill was vetoed due to unforeseen interference with the state gaming compacts. After working with the Department of Administration and legislative attorneys, we were able to resolve the issue in this version of the bill and ensure that there will be no issues moving forward.
I believe both the Raffle Reform and Speed Limit issues are straightforward, common sense improvements to our laws, and I’m pleased that both bills enjoy bipartisan support. If you any ideas for potential changes in state law, please be sure to contact me anytime toll-free at (888) 295-8750, or by e-mail at Sen.LeMahieu@legis.wi.gov. Thank you for reading. It’s a privilege to represent you in Madison.
Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) succeeds former Senator Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), who did not seek re-election. The 9th Senate District includes parts of Calumet, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan Counties.