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NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Story By Lane Kimble


RHINELANDER - It can kill you the first time you try it, but kids and adults seem to be doing it anyway. Inhaling aerosol sprays for a simple high. It's called huffing. But it wasn't illegal in Wisconsin until 2005.

"Having a legal thing that people can do made it more appealing that you can just go to the store and get chemical sprays and dusters and get high off that and not face any consequences," Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke said. "At least now there's a consequence to that."

Helke helped lead the charge seven years ago to make huffing a crime. Now it's a class A misdemeanor. But his fight is far from over.

About a month ago, a Rhinelander driver named Matthew Taulbut crashed his car into the curb here, on Baird and Dahl streets near the county courthouse. Police found him slumped over the wheel with aerosol cans in his lap.

But ironically enough, Taulbut, who crashed just a block from where the law is upheld, couldn't be charged criminally with his 4th OWI. Huffing isn't defined as an intoxicant. At least not yet.

State Representative Rob Swearingen is a co-sponsor of this bill making its way around the Capitol. Sergeant Helke contacted him and other lawmakers with hopes of amending the drunk driving laws.

"Essentially what we're going to do is open up the word intoxicant and include the word inhalant, like huffing, and include that so that police actually have some teeth when they try to enforce the law," Swearingen said.

Lawmakers from both sides are coming together to draft the bill. The next stop will be in a legislative committee before heading to a hearing. Swearingen thinks the process should be smooth.

"It's highly likely, depending on any opposition, and I don't know why anyone would oppose this, but pending any opposition, something like this is good, common sense legislation," Swearingen said.

That's good news for Sgt. Helke and police everywhere.

"Unfortunately in most places, they aren't aware or there isn't anything spurned until somebody dies," Helke said. "And we don't want to wait until somebody dies until the awareness is risen."

Awareness and a law, that should make the roads safer.

"I think this is a simple fix, I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that should get done, needs to get done so they can do their job," Swearingen said.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Workng OnSubmitted: 06/29/2015

- Kids who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities can't use most playgrounds. One Wausau family wants to change that. The family plans on building a new accessible playground with state of the art equipment that every child can use. Newswatch 12's Karolina Buczek went to the future site of JoJo's Jungle to learn more about the playground plans and the boy who inspired it all.

- Plus, find out how a new walking/biking trail between Rhinelander and Nicolet College could help keep drivers and bicyclists safe.

We'll have the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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WAUSAU - Kids who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities can't use most playgrounds. One Wausau family wants to change that.

The Hoerter family has big plans for Wausau's new accessible playground. The 30,000 to 50,000 square foot play area called JoJo's Jungle will give every child the opportunity to play.

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WAUSAU - Update---One man died after a fight in Wausau.

Now the man who survived is in jail. 

43-year-old George Diver of Wausau was found dead the day after the fight.  

40-year-old Jerry Schnabl was arrested for reckless homicide and taken to the Marathon County Jail.

Witnesses say the fight happened on Friday night and was about a girl that both men wanted to date.

Police got a call around 1:30 in the afternoon Saturday to an apartment on 2nd street in Wausau where Diver had stopped breathing.

Witnesses told police Diver had been hurt in the fight, but did not seek medical attention.

He went to bed, and was found dead Saturday afternoon by a woman who lived in the apartment with Diver.

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RHINELANDER - With July 4th just around the corner, many people plan their summer BBQ's. As you head out to the yard or beach, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Sun can cause serious harm to your skin. Be sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

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WISCONSIN - A court can require a person to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, into their car, after multiple OWI offenses.

A person has to blow into the IID to check their blood-alcohol level to start their car. Now, a new proposed law hopes to increase fines for people who don't install the device.

Under current law, a person found without a required IID can be fined between $150 to $600 for the first offense. But the new law wants to increase these fines to between $500 to $1,200 for the first offense, and up to $2,000 for the second.

Police in the Northwoods say people driving without an IID has been a problem in the past.

"Last year, we've had 54 registered vehicles come in to our agency as having the ignition interlock device in it, and we've actually had nine people cited for either altering it or not having it installed when they were supposed to," said Oneida County Sheriff's Office Captain Terri Hook.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - For years people in Vilas and Iron counties fought over how to manage water levels on the Manitowish River and the Manitowish Chain of Lakes.

The Rest Lake Dam controls how much water fills several lakes, rivers, and the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.

Now, legislators in Madison might be the ones to decide where the water goes.

The current Rest Lake Dam was built in 1926.

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MADISON - Wisconsin Democrats say they want to eliminate nullified language in the state's constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lawmakers held a news conference Monday to introduce the resolution after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Friday to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states.

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