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Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013

Lane Kimble
Assistant News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com


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 Working OnSubmitted: 04/27/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

Rain, sleet and snow led to at least three accidents this morning near Rhinelander today. We'll give you the details and talk to a Rhinelander police officer about how to avoid accidents in weather like today.

We'll tell you how the recent precipitation is affecting lake levels in the Northwoods.

And an acoustic guitarist from Japan is opening the season at Three Lakes Center for the Arts Friday, and this will be his second time performing there. He tells us why he likes playing in that particular theater.

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

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MADISON - A top psychologist at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison was fired for allegedly ignoring the requests of dozens of inmates who asked for help.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show Dr. D. Jeremy John was accused in December of not following up with 26 youth inmates at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prison facility.

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MILWAUKEE - A Wisconsin man was removed from a Delta Air Lines flight after using the bathroom against crew instructions shortly before takeoff.

Kima Hamilton says he urgently needed to use the bathroom April 18 while on a Milwaukee-bound plane in Atlanta. He says takeoff was delayed and the flight wasn't moving, so he decided to go.

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MADISON - The state Department of Justice, federal authorities and police are urging people to get rid of unwanted medications this weekend.

The DOJ, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local police departments have set up a drug take back day on Saturday.

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The DNR started a turkey donating program this year.

You can donate turkey's to three processors in the southern half of the state.

"A little bit further south of here in areas where there's usually a lot of deer donations and a lot of turkey shot so that we can try and get some good participation for the first year," said DNR's Wildlife Biologist, Jeremy Holtz.

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RHINELANDER - Rent can eat up more than half of a person's income when they earn minimum wage. That can lead to missed rent payments and even homelessness.

The Northern Wisconsin Initiative to Stop Homelessness, or N*WISH, wants to work the landlords to keep people housed.

"This is a new initiative, I guess, to try to build landlord relationships and awareness of homelessness and people in need," said Housing Program team leader Lori Hallas.

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RHINELANDER - Nothing gets the competitive juices flowing like racing to fix a car's fuse box. Nicolet College in Rhinelander hosted 12 Northwoods high schools for some friendly competition with a specific goal in mind.

The competitions varied from auto skills to welding to even cupcake baking. The goal was for students to begin thinking about college.

"Getting to see the inner workings of a vehicle, getting to work and learn at the same time, it makes me think more about college and what I want to do with my future," said Crandon sophomore, Kegan Wilson.

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