By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jan 25, 2008 at 5:15 AM

Our immediate families could be much larger by this time next month -- at least in the City of Milwaukee.

While Ald. Mike D'Amato has done a number of notable things while representing the East Side, his lasting legacy could be the redefinition of a nuclear family. D'Amato proposed that the city's definition of "family" include first cousins. This would allow college students to bunk together and avoid the ban on three unrelated people from living in the same dwelling, a recent target for crackdown by city building inspectors.

For the record, the city's current definition of family includes: "Husband and wife, son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, uncle or aunt, grandparent, grandchild, niece or nephew, mother-in-law or father-in-law, all of whom comprise no more than one nuclear family unit per household. Included in the term "family" are four or fewer legally assigned foster children, except that more than four may be legally assigned if all are related to one another as brothers or sisters."

Keeping it all in the family, state law states that second cousins can get married legally. We're pretty sure it's not a common tactic used to get around housing ordinances.

Much Ado About Ronnie: Usually when politicians honor dead politicians -- especially presidents -- there isn't much debate over the resolution. But a resolution creating "Ronald Reagan Day" in Wisconsin created a firestorm this week.

The resolution praises Reagan as "a man of humble background (who) worked throughout his life serving freedom and advancing the public good ... (who) inherited a disillusioned nation shackled by rampant inflation and high unemployment; and (who) led to an unprecedented economic expansion and opportunity for millions of Americans; and (whose) commitment to an active social policy agenda for the nation's children helped lower crime and drug use in America's neighborhoods; and (whose) commitment to the armed forces contributed to the restoration of pride in America, her values, and those cherished by the free world, and prepared America's armed forces to win the Gulf War."

The over-the-top language seems to have set off state Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), one of our favorite orators whose skin is thick enough that he doesn't need Teflon.

"What I remember is something called Iran-Contra," Schneider told the chamber. "What I remember is a frontal assault on the air traffic control system."

Schneider's list included the export of jobs to other countries and the Reagan administration's failure to deal adequately with the AIDS outbreak. "I remember a man who couldn't even mention the word AIDS. ...

"So you can celebrate this guy all you want, but that's the real legacy of this guy," he said.

State Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) called the resolution "hypocrisy and silliness," while former weather guy and current state Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) said that Reagan "won the Cold War" because he was willing to stand up to the Soviet Union.

Despite all the rhetoric, no one in that hallowed chamber pointed out that the resolution was to recognize "Feb. 6, 2007" as Reagan day.

Shots in the Wind: This one goes on the "piling on" pile. The fundamental question here is, "if felons can't carry guns, why would they want a hunting license?"

Nonetheless the Journal Sentinel decided to make a front-page deal over the fact that 77 felons bought gun deer licenses even though they can't legally carry guns.

They may not be Mensa candidates, but lawmakers -- headline readers that they are -- are eager to get their names on a bill that would stop that scourge. After all, we know deer feel much safer if they don't have to face the prospect of being stalked by felons.

That must be the premise behind a bill proffered by state Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), which would bar felons and others who cannot legally possess firearms from getting hunting licenses. The penalty would be a minimum $1,000 fine and a five-year ban from purchasing any hunting, fishing or trapping licenses. Smith's bill isn't just a paper tiger, though; he wants the state to actually spend money hunting down these felonious hunters.

The bill would require the Department of Natural Resources to ask the Department of Justice to conduct annual record searches of every person issued a DNR hunting license to see if there are felons lurking about. The sheer cost of that should make sure the bill gets shot on sight.

It's Debate Season: The Milwaukee County exec's race has always featured a plethora of debates and this contest appears to be no different. The first official verbal bout between Exec Scott Walker and state Sen. Lena Taylor is set for 11:45 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Italian Community Center.

Most of the public can't attend at that time. Nevertheless, the Milwaukee Press Club and the Public Policy Forum think it's an accessible time and one that they can charge $40 for people to attend.

A ticket to the Bruce Springsteen show this August at the Harley-Davidson reunion costs $40 (and about $60 for a grounds pass) and with all due respect, we don't think a Walker-Taylor matchup ranks anywhere close to the Boss.

Another debate is scheduled for the more reasonable hour of 7 p.m. March 5 at the Jewish Community Center. The two will duke it out at noon on March 11 at the Downtown Rotary Club. 

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.