Odds and ends: Wisconsin votes to abolish ban on heated walkways

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. – Things are heating up in Wisconsin.

After the second snowiest December on record in the state capital – and with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Tuesday – the Legislature abolished a statewide ban on heated sidewalks, stairs, entrances and pedestrian walkways.

The bill, which cleared the state Assembly in October and was approved unanimously Tuesday by the state Senate, overturns a law passed in the 1980s in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s. Wisconsin is the only state that had such a prohibition in the books.

Supporters of overturning the ban argue that with better technology, and the prospect of using less salt and saving money on snow removal, the ban had outlived its usefulness.

Phyllis Christensen, director of the Marathon City library, said library officials hoped the bill would pass so they could build an outdoor stairway between a new parking lot and the library’s entrance, which is about 17 feet up on a hill.

“Trying to keep a staircase like that cleared so it’s safe during the winter would be extremely difficult,” Christensen said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who supports it, said his spokesman Matt Canter.

Virgina lawmaker seeks ban on genitalia replicas

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s one thing to dangle fuzzy dice from a rear view mirror, but decorating a trailer hitch with a large pair of rubber testicles might be a bit much in Virginia.

State Del. Lionel Spruill introduced a bill Tuesday to ban displaying replicas of human genitalia on vehicles, calling it a safety issue because it could distract other drivers.

Under his measure, displaying the ornamentation on a motor vehicle would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $250.

He said the idea came from a constituent whose young daughter spotted an example of the trail hitch adornment and asked her father to explain it. “‘I didn’t know what to tell her,'” Spruill said the constituent told him before Spruill vowed to stop such displays.

“I said, ‘Sir, I’m going to be a laughingstock, but I’m going to do it,'” he said.

The Virginia General Assembly has some experience with offbeat bills. Three years ago, it drew widespread attention with an unsuccessful effort to outlaw baggy pants worn so low they expose underwear.

Spruill, 61, said the indignity of the “droopy drawers” debate wouldn’t deter him. He said he won’t hesitate to bring a set of $24.95 trailer testicles with him for a legislative show-and-tell.

“I’m going to do it,” Spruill told a handful of reporters after Tuesday’s House session adjourned.

“I’m going to bring them out here and show them to you till they tell me to stop.”