A bill lowering the threshold at which motorists can be found too drunk to drive was sent to the governor Saturday for his expected signature.
The measure lowering a motorist’s allowable blood-alcohol level to .08, down from .10, was among a flurry of bills the Republican-led Legislature sent Democratic Gov. Gary Locke in the rush to beat a Thursday adjournment of the 60-day session.
Another anti-drunken driving bill lawmakers sent to Locke for his expected approval would require that first-time accused drunken drivers have their licenses suspended for 90 days even before going to court.
Lawmakers also shipped Locke a bill intended to better protect the public from mentally ill offenders, six months after a retired Seattle firefighter was stabbed to death on a downtown Seattle street.
Both houses Saturday also concurred on each other’s measures to send Locke proposals ranging from tougher penalties for amphetamine-makers to a crackdown on people who steal wooden pallets.
In voting to concur with House amendments to SB6257, the Senate decided to make Washington the last state on the West Coast to lower the allowable blood-alcohol level for motorists.
The measure is a centerpiece of a 12-bill package intended to get a grip on drunken drivers in Washington. Locke has said he supported the package, and in fact proposed several of its elements, including the lower blood-alcohol level.
The Senate also sent Locke another piece of the package, SB6142, providing for “automatic administrative” license suspension of motorists arrested for drunken driving the first time. The law already allows such suspensions for a second or subsequent offense. Backers of the bill said it would discourage drinking and driving.
Foes said it was a mistake because the drivers would lose the incentive to seek alcohol treatment counseling as an alternative to prosecution, which is an option. As a result, foes said, more people are likely to repeat the offense. “The people who go to treatment are half as likely to reoffend over the next four years as people who don’t,” said House Minority Leader Marlin Appelwick, D-Seattle.
In other action, lawmakers sent the governor:
SB5760 giving judges more power to order mentally ill lawbreakers who commit only misdemeanors to be held for treatment. Current law provides for confinement and treatment of the mentally ill who commit felonies. The measure was sought by the family of retired Seattle firefighter Stanley Stevenson, who was stabbed to death by a mentally ill transient near the Kingdome last summer.
SB6139 making manufacture or delivery of amphetamines a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
HB2791, making manufacture or delivery of methamphetamines - also known as speed or crank - a “most serious offense.” That means it can be among “three-strikes, you’re out” crimes, any three of which sends the offender to prison for life.
SB5769, making it a crime to possess more than 10 wooden pallets unless the possessor can prove he or she owns the pallets.
The measure was sought by large users of pallets, who said pallet theft has become an expensive problem.