A bill that would extend bar hours during the Democratic National Convention unanimously passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday and is eligible to be taken up for a floor vote.
Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade Chair Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, told WisPolitics.com after the hearing that “we’ll see where we’re at” on support for the bill among his GOP colleagues now that it’s out of committee.
“We wanted to get this hearing done and then we’ll bring it up again and see where we’re at,” Feyen said. “We think we’re in a pretty decent place, but we have to talk to some members yet.”
AB 869 passed the Assembly last month 84-13. The original bill would’ve allowed municipalities across the state the chance to expand bar hours to 4 a.m. between July 13 and July 17. It also would’ve established a permit process for so-called “wedding barn” private event venues and would’ve closed a loophole where breweries could stay open beyond bar time, among other things.
But two amendments, both introduced by bill author Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, removed those provisions and limited the DNC bar hours section to 14 counties in southern Wisconsin. Municipalities would be able to opt-in to the bar hours extension or remain at current state laws.
The amended bill would also allow alcohol sales at the Road America racetrack grounds, clarify liquor license issuing authority to vendors at State Fair Park and increase the state’s ride program surcharge on people convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated to $75 from $50.
Last month, Senate Dems attempted to attach the bill as an amendment to another bill. But the move was rejected by voice vote, with Republicans questioning the importance of the issue and expressing concerns over drunken driving.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Drunk Driving Education Foundation founder Marla Hall recounted how her son, his fiancee and their coworker were all killed by a head-on collision with a repeat drunk driver while returning to Milwaukee from a work trip. Hall asked the committee members if they would be the ones to give people too drunk to drive a ride home at 4 a.m.
“If you had to add a $25 surcharge, you’re already saying you know there will be more OWIs and there will likely be a death,” she said. “Where is the money for police enforcement, for the state patrol, for sheriffs? Nobody cares. It’s all about money.”
The Assembly session already ended, and GOP leadership said there aren’t any plans to come back, other than for some possible veto override attempts in April.
AB 869 would have to pass the Senate in its current form for it to go to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk. Feyen previously said his committee will not look at attaching any other amendments for this reason.
See more here.