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Wisconsin Assembly gives unanimous approval to drunken driving reforms

The Wisconsin Assembly gave its unanimous approval Thursday to a series of drunken driving reforms.

The Badger State would still be the only one not to make all first-time OWI a criminal offense.

But first-timers caught with kids under 16 in the car could be charged with misdemeanors.

And first offenders with blood alcohol levels of 0.15 or higher would have to breathe into interlock devices to start their vehicles and all repeat offenders would have to do the same.

These reforms and others now go to the Senate, which is still working on its own drunken driving package.

Majority Leader Russ Decker expects final action this fall.

Paul and Judy Jenkins of Mequon, who lost their daughter and two grandchildren in a crash caused by three-time drunken driver Mark Benson, called the package "baby steps."

Lawmakers promised more action, but they'll need more money to handle the new offenders.

The Assembly bill uses current revenues from the state's beer and liquor taxes.

It makes four-time OWI a felony if it happens within five years of a third offense.

There's also more treatment. And counties could give judges the option of reducing sentences for those who receive that treatment.