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

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
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: 05/02/2016

- Last month, voters in the Unified School District of Antigo rejected a referendum that would have consolidated the district's seven elementary schools. Now the district has to figure out what to do with the teachers, staff and students of one school that will close in June.

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

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WAUSAU - The Mayor of Wausau blames "a violent world", in part, for this weekend's officer involved shooting.

A Wausau police officer shot and killed a man allegedly armed with a knife late Saturday night.

Mayor Robert Mielke said that he believes the shooting was justified and the entire police force has his full support.

"It's a very sad situation," said Mielke. "It's sad for the family involved with the individual. But it's also very sad for the officer involved and the other officers involved. It's a traumatic thing. But we're going to get through this and we're going to heal through this."

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PARK FALLS - Park Falls' Bob Kranig hadn't been to the grocery store in three years, by his estimation.

"I've got to rely on other people," he said.

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RHINELANDER -

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The goal of the program is to offer an easy to use application.


Designers believe the software is tailored to the needs of Northwoods loggers.  


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EAGLE RIVER - Today's manufacturing industry relies on an increasing knowledge of science, technology, and mathematics. And thanks to a grant awarded to the Northland Pines School District, teachers will be able to provide their students with the latest technology that the manufacturing industry has to offer.

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ADAMS COUNTY - Update-We now know the names of two men who died in a two car crash near the Wisconsin Dells over the weekend.

The Wisconsin State Patrol tells us 65 year old Timothy Helm and his passenger, 72 year old Frances Chowaniec died at the scene of the crash.

Both men were from Oxford.

24 year old Kolton Coon of Wisconsin Dells was the second driver.

He was taken to a hospital and expected to survive.

The crash happened Saturday afternoon around 2:00 on County Road B north of state highway 23 in Adams County.

Wisconsin State Patrol is still investigating.





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Routes opened for the season at 8 a.m. Sunday in Vilas County.

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