By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jun 05, 2009 at 5:27 AM

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Lawmakers are considering stiffening penalties for drunk driving in the state and the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department has an idea -- just one -- to help.

Sobriety checkpoints are the solution, Sheriff's Department representatives said this week at a hearing in front of the state Senate's Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform and Housing Committee.

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," said one sheriff's rep, adding that checkpoints would actually reduce drunk driving arrests somehow.

"We're asking for a change of engineers. We're interested in sweeping reforms."

The representatives said checkpoints would actually be an educational device because officers could hand out business cards and offer advice on safe driving to the sober motorists they stop.

Attorney General JB Van Hollen won his race two years ago in large part because of his opposition to such checkpoints, which are used in many other states, particularly in the south.

I went through a checkpoint in South Carolina on U.S. 1 after a NASCAR event and was told, "Please fasten your seatbelt, sir."

Done Deals: Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker put his signature on the sale of 89 acres of county land in Wauwatosa to UW-Milwaukee for a new engineering school. The county will get $13.5 million in the deal, which dashed city hopes that the university would consider expanding its footprint Downtown.

UWM also quietly stopped its bid to build a new building on the site of the former Pieces of Eight restaurant. The school had pitched the location for a new freshwater sciences school until environmentalists and other green space advocates rallied against it.

An ironic point to the university pitch was that it would have built a building on landfill on the lake, which would violate state law and require a special permit to do so.

Job Watch: The Madison-based Center on Wisconsin Strategy has put together a new feature focusing on the business of Wisconsin jobs. Some interesting findings from COWS show a grim scene:

  • In April 2009, Wisconsin had 137,500 fewer jobs than when the recession started in December 2007.
  • Wisconsin's unemployment rate has almost doubled since the beginning of the recession, reaching a high of 8.6 percent in April.
  • Wisconsin has 54,300 fewer manufacturing jobs and 21,400 fewer construction jobs than at the start of the recession.
  • The most precipitous job loss and unemployment spikes in the current recession have occurred in the past six months.

It's Still Not OK: A trial court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of lesbian state employees and their partners seeking domestic partner health insurance and family leave protections, but the American Civil Liberties Union sees it as a victory for their cause.

The court said that although it believes it is unconstitutional for the state to continue to deny the employees equal health insurance coverage and family leave protection, it is bound by a prior decision from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals from 1992.

"Losing doesn't get any better than this," said Larry Dupuis, litigation director of the ACLU. "We knew we had an uphill battle in the trial court because of the earlier case. But the court agreed with us that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be subject to strict judicial review and that it is unconstitutional for the state to deny equal benefits."

Recall Fever: The fun bunch at Citizens for Responsible Government have put their effort to recall Gov. Jim Doyle on the Web. offers no real or legal reasons to recall the governor. Perhaps it's just something to do in the summer. CRG flacks say more than 3,000 people have signed up to help the recall effort and it will officially launch when 10,000 volunteers are in the game.

"Thomas Jefferson wrote 'That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,'" CRG leader Orville Seymer said in a statement.

"We have the right in the Wisconsin Constitution to recall our representatives who have broken their promises and are piling up billions of dollars of debt for our children and our grandchildren."

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.