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Scott Walker signs bills on guns, wetlands, drunken driving, smog

Scott Walker signs bills on guns, wetlands, drunken driving, smog

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MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday signed into law bills strengthening a ban on straw purchases of guns, removing wetland protections, revoking licenses of fourth-offense drunken drivers, and seeking less stringent air pollution remedies.

They were among 41 bills Walker signed in his office with bill authors and other interested parties allowed to attend, a spokeswoman said.

The Legislature passed the gun bill in the aftermath of last month’s mass shooting of students in Parkland, Florida. A straw purchase is when one person buys a gun for someone legally banned from firearms ownership.

The state Senate hasn’t agreed to an additional measure — tougher background checks for certain gun purchases — that passed the Assembly. Democrats said it was inadequate.

The legislation removing protection from thousands of acres of small wetlands was called the worst conservation bill in a generation by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Two other outdoors groups softened their opposition after the bill’s scope was limited to acreage in and around populated areas.

The drunken driving law will take away driving privileges for at least a decade for those who are convicted four or more times. To regain a drivers license, offenders would need to demonstrate they had kept their records clean, and undergo alcohol treatment.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving withheld support for the law, saying license suspension should be backed up by mandatory ignition interlock devices to prevent offenders’ vehicles from starting when too much alcohol is detected on a driver’s breath. In the face of Wisconsin’s powerful tavern lobby, politicians have been reluctant to toughen laws. Wisconsin is the only state where first-offense drunken driving means a traffic ticket, not a crime conviction.

The air pollution law directs the state Department of Natural Resources to try to drop an air pollution monitoring device in Kohler-Andrae State Park from the Clean Air Act compliance plan submitted annually to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Walker and other Republicans say it’s unfair that federal law requires limits on ozone in the eastern part of the state because some of the pollutants detected by monitors come from Illinois and Indiana. The original bill took a hard line, but it was amended to allow DNR to include the monitor in the plan if EPA says it’s necessary. And lawmakers removed a provision requiring DNR to stop using the monitor if EPA agreed to exclude it.

Walker also signed a law preventing the DNR from redesignating a waterway in Chippewa County as navigable even though it is deep enough. A private landowner requested the law as a way of keeping the public from using a pond he created as a place for people with disabilities to fish in peace and quiet.

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