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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

I'll need to see (AH-CHOOO!!!) a photo ID

Soon-to-be Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald promises that the first piece of legislation introduced in the state Senate that reconvenes January will be a bill to require photo ID to vote.

That, of course, is tremendous news. It’s too bad we can’t fix another photo ID mess.

This week, Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster announced their backing of legislation to require a prescription to buy cold or allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine. Popular cold pills like Sudafed or Claritin contain the drug needed for making methamphetamine. According to the World Health Organization, methamphetamine is second only to marijuana as the most widely abused illicit drug in the world. Normally referred to as “meth”, the drug is extremely addictive. Users experience acute psychosis and can become extremely violent.

Missouri would become the third state in the nation (Oregon and Mississippi are the others) to require a prescription for popular cold medications. Wisconsin, thankfully, hasn’t gone that far.

Governor Doyle signs SB 78

On June 7, 2005, Wisconsin Governor Doyle signed into law the “Meth Bill.”  Talk about your bipartisanship. Only six of Wisconsin’s 132 legislators voted no. At times, bipartisanship is like taking a bath. After awhile, it’s not so hot.

A Wisconsin Legislative Council memo states that under Senate Bill 78, the “Meth Bill”:

Any person purchasing the substance (cold medicines containing
pseudoephedrine) must, at the time of purchase, present to the seller that person’s name and address and an identification card containing the person’s photograph. The seller must record the name and address and the name and quantity of the product sold. The purchaser and seller must sign the record of the transaction unless the product is sold by a person working under the direction of a pharmacist, in which case, the supervising pharmacist must sign the record of the transaction.

The records of transactions of sales of pseudoephedrine products may be kept in either a paper or electronic format and must be maintained by the pharmacy for at least two years. Only a pharmacist or a law enforcement officer may have access to information recorded with respect to the sale of a pseudoephedrine product.

No person, other than a physician, dentist, veterinarian, or pharmacist may purchase more than 7.5 grams of a pseudoephedrine product within a 30-day period without the authorization of a physician, dentist, or veterinarian.”


As of June 22, 2005, under Jim Doyle’s Wisconsin, you didn’t need a photo ID to vote, but to buy cold tablets?

How did this happen?

Legislators, particularly those that represented districts along the state’s western border were deeply concerned about the increasing use of meth caused by the supply creeping in from Minnesota. Meth labs were popping up prompting a call for action. The solution was to require customers purchasing cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine to show identification to a store employee. The employee then connects via the Internet to a statewide database to enter the transaction details. Almost instantly, the seller learns whether that customer has recently purchased pseudoephedrine somewhere else, and how much.  If the customer has exceeded the legally proscribed amount set by the government, the pharmacist is required to reject the sale and  can alert local police of suspicious activity

Lawmakers in strong support saw a way to control a deadly drug. Others who were skeptical but went along did not want to be labeled soft on crime or slammed in a future 30-second TV political ad.

Textbook good intentions that resulted in unintended consequences. Wisconsin killed a mosquito with a bazooka.

Come winter cold season, understandable frustration erupts when miserable sufferers simply want to drag thermselves to a pharmacy to purchase some much-needed relief. It’s interesting Governor Doyle when discussing his opposition to photo ID for voting argued that thousands of senior citizens have no such identification. But apparently when he signed the bill into law that is was alright if they couldn't buy their necessary medication.

In 2005, the year the “Meth Bill” was signed into law, the state had a record 726 meth offenses in 52 counties. One year later, the number dropped to 492.  Two years later in 2007, the number was 420. The number of meth labs has also dropped, prompting the state Department of Justice to credit the meth photo ID law.

This is all a long lead up to the fact that you can forget about these restrictions going away. On September 30, 2006, 15 months after Wisconsin’s law took effect, the final provisions of the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 were implemented meaning to buy cold medicine with pseudoephedrine, a photo ID  is necessary and a record is kept of the purchase and amount. The product is placed behind the counter.

The latest development is that some states like Missouri are now pondering taking the prohibitions a step further by requiring, not just a photo ID, but a prescription. For cold medicine.

I’m pretty sure that with the incoming Wisconsin governor and legislature, this idea won’t see the light of day.


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