OLYMPIA -- A law that toughens the state's drunk driving laws, in part by increasing mandatory jail time, received unanimous approval this morning from the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Despite concerns by some senators that it didn't go far enough, or provide money to cities and counties for the higher costs of extra prosecutions for driving under the influence, all committee members gave it at least tentative support.
Just who was responsible for some of the drunks on the road was part of the debate. The Legislature must accept some responsibility, Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said because it continues to increase the number of places where a person can consume alcohol -- at movie theaters, public markets and spas -- and then drive home.
The voters should accept some of the blame, said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. They opened up sales of distilled spirits in supermarkets through a 2011 initiative, and legalized marijuana consumption by adults in 2012. Stores like Costco now have mountains of liquor on display in their aisles, she said.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, tried unsuccessfully to attach amendments that would pay for increased prosecutions and incarcerations by extending the temporary tax on beer that was imposed in 2010 and is due to expire on June 30. Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said taxes to pay for the bill is something the Ways and Means Committee will address.
The bill makes a fourth conviction for driving under the influence a felony, down from five convictions under the current law. It sets up mandatory jail time or treatment programs for earlier offenses, would allow judges to order a drunk driver to abstain from alcohol and submit to mandatory daily testing.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that tougher drunk driving laws were one of the three top priorities for the special session, along with passing an operating budget for 2013-15 and a package of new transportation projects that will require some new revenue.