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Laws that make the state look foolish PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 16:22

Eating Irish butter is a greater threat to Wisconsin residents than living in apartments that don’t have fire sprinklers.
    Goofy as it is, that’s one conclusion that can be drawn from the fact that the Walker administration was laying plans to get rid of a regulation requiring apartment buildings to have fire sprinklers at about the same time it was in court defending a law that makes it illegal to sell imported butter from grass-fed cows.
    Gov. Scott Walker has campaigned as a big foe of regulations that businesses don’t like, and in 2011 he pushed for and signed legislation that prevented state agencies from drafting regulations more stringent than rules set by state laws.
      A state lawyer recently determined that a state regulation requiring new apartment buildings with three to 20 units to have fire sprinklers can’t be enforced because it conflicts with that 2011 legislation.
    Walker’s Department of Safety and Professional Services then planned to scrap the sprinkler requirement, which has been on the books for seven years, but after criticism from firefighters that move is apparently on hold.
    Meanwhile, an attorney from the state Department of Justice was in Ozaukee Circuit Court last week fighting a lawsuit by a Grafton business owner seeking to overturn the butter law.
    The law, which prohibits the sale of butter that is not graded by a panel of experts based on 32 criteria, is a ridiculous restriction on commerce that deserves to be repealed rather than defended.
    Kathleen McGlone wants to sell Kerrygold Irish butter in her Slow Pokes Local Food store in Grafton, but could be fined $1,000 and jailed for six months if she does because it’s not graded by the Wisconsin butter panel.
    Kerrygold, pricey but prized for its taste as well as its cachet as a butter made from the milk of cows claimed to be free of growth hormones and antibiotics, is sold legally in every state except Wisconsin.
    It is so much in demand that the plaintiffs in the Ozaukee County lawsuit include a Cedar Grove woman suing for the right to buy it. Wisconsin residents living near Illinois, Minnesota or Iowa are said to cross state borders in considerable numbers expressly to buy Kerrygold.
    This sounds like a bit of a throwback to the so-called “oleo wars” when legions of Wisconsin residents became smugglers to bring butter-colored oleomargarine across the state line.
    Yellow margarine prohibition was in effect in the state from 1925 to 1964—evidence that America’s Dairyland has a powerful dairy lobby bent on making sure Wisconsin takes care of its own. People who wanted to eat margarine had to either buy it in a white form in a soft plastic container that came with a capsule of dye that could be kneaded into the gelatinous mass or sneak in butter-colored sticks of margarine from more enlightened states.
    To this day, it is illegal in Wisconsin to serve margarine of any color in restaurants unless a customer requests it and to serve it in state institutions, including state university cafeterias.
    Wisconsin has some legislative work to do, not lawmaking, but lawtaking—taking foolish or harmful laws out of the statute books. At the top of the list are the butter-grading law, the vestiges of the margarine law and the law that prohibits the enforcement of proven, common-sense fire safety measures.

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