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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: 01/19/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

The T.B. Scott Library in Merrill will be constructing solar panels this spring. We'll tell you about the fundraising efforts and the plans for the panels.

The manager of an Oneida and Vilas county bus service is asking the community for patience. We'll tell you about Northwoods Transit Connections and how it is trying to keep up with demand.

And the Lakeland Memory Cafe at a church in Arbor Vitae opened for the first time today. We'll tell you how volunteers hope it will help people who suffer from memory loss.

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

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RHINELANDER - A Northwoods teacher is being recognized for connecting her students with the world. 

A Rhinelander High School teacher won the second annual Global Educator of the Year Award.

Linda Goldsworthy teaches social studies at Rhinelander High School. 

She is the only teacher in the state to win the award. 

Her experiences traveling as a college student to places like China and Germany inspired her to create the same opportunities for her own students.

"One of the things that gets me coming here every day is just seeing their faces and trying to enhance their understanding of the world we live in," said Goldsworthy.

As a teacher Goldsworthy's goal is providing global experiences for all students. 

She believes teaching a Comparative Religions class at a public school set her apart from other applicants.

 Winning the award has helped spread an important message that Goldsworthy encourages. 

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VILAS COUNTY - Update:

We now the names of the people involved in a deadly crash that happened in Boulder Junction on Tuesday.

The crash happened at the intersection of Highway 51 and County Highway H just after 3:30 p.m.

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ARBOR VITAE - People who suffer from memory loss often don't want to talk about what they're going through. But volunteers hope a new program in the Northwoods will help people reach out and get help.

The Lakeland Memory Cafe opened for the first time Thursday at Peace Lutheran Church in Arbor Vitae.

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MERRILL - The T.B. Scott Free Library first opened its doors back in the 1800s. Light bulbs were just invented ten years prior.

Now, another change will help the Merrill library go solar in the next few months.

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MADISON - Wisconsin's unemployment rate is 4 percent, the lowest it's been since January 2001.

The state Department of Workforce Development reported Thursday that the rate was 4 percent in December, down slightly from 4.1 percent in November.

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