Senate moves to retool drunken-driving laws - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Senate moves to retool drunken-driving laws

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Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008 12:30 am | Updated: 10:53 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

State lawmakers resurrected legislation to revamp drunken-driving laws Thursday — but this time without a provision that caused Gov. Janet Napolitano to kill the last one.

On a voice vote the Senate agreed to tack the other provisions of the once-vetoed bill onto HB2643. That House-passed measure deals with unrelated changes in liquor laws.

The new language fixes what Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said are some flaws in drunken-driving laws.

For example, one provision clarifies the procedure used to summarily suspend the driver’s license of a suspected drunken driver 15 days after the incident.

Another increases the penalties for operating a boat while intoxicated so they match those meted out to people who drive a car or truck under the influence of alcohol.

And another clears up some flawed wording in existing law that allows someone involved in a fatal accident who is convicted of drunken driving to have partial driving rights restored.

Gone is language that would have reduced the time that a motorist guilty of drunken driving could operate only vehicles with an ignition interlock from the current one year to just six months.

Napolitano, in her veto last month, pointed out that the interlock requirement took effect just last September.

The devices prevent a vehicle from starting unless a motorist provides a “clean” breath sample. They also ask for new samples from time to time when the vehicle is operating to thwart someone who gets a friend to blow into the tube to get the car or truck started.

The governor said she believes the device does more than just keep a convicted drunken driver from getting behind the wheel. She said just the possibility that a conviction could result in having to install the device actually has “a deterrent effect” in keeping people from drinking and driving.

And while acknowledging that some believe the penalty of an interlock is too severe, she said it would be “premature” to alter the new law just yet.

Gray said the change is not as simple as the governor suggested. She pointed out that the six-month option would have been available only if the person first completes a drug or alcohol education or treatment program approved by the state Department of Health Services.

But Gray decided not to fight Napolitano over that point and at least get the governor to approve the other changes in drunken-driving laws.

“We had so many other good provisions in it that it was better go forward with what we had,” she said. And the odds of getting a signature on the new bill are vastly better:

Gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L’Ecuyer has said that Napolitano believes the rest of what was in the vetoed bill — other than the interlock requirement changes — are good.

Gray said she may revisit the issue next year.

The measure now goes back to the House to review the Senate additions.

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