As one DUI bill fails, another advances — can they meet in the middle?
A bill that would have made it easier to lock up repeat DUI offenders died in the state Legislature Wednesday, failing — despite a last ditch effort by Republicans — to come up for a vote before a key deadline.
Republican Senator Mike Padden’s bill — SB 5299 — would have made four DUIs in 15 years, rather than 10 years, a felony, which comes with prison time in most cases.
Supporters said it would help keep habitual drunk drivers off the roads and increase public safety. The hope is to address incidents like one where a man with more than four DUI convictions barreled down I-5 the wrong way in Marysville last summer, killing an Oregon woman.
Critics argue the $8 million dollar price tag — the projected cost over 4 years — to incarcerate more repeat DUI offenders is too high, and runs counter to the larger effort to keep people out of jail in Olympia.
Opponents also wanted a treatment aspect in the bill, so that even the most dangerous offenders could get the help they need.
In the end, those concerns, politics, and a time crunch led to the bill’s demise.
But just before SB 5299 failed in the Senate, a bill from Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman was approved in the House, that also strengthen DUI laws, though not to the same extent as Padden’s bill.
Goodman’s bill is a larger comprehensive measure he’s been working on for years. Among other things, it requires DUI sentences with enhancements to be served consecutively, rather than at the same time. It also adds sentencing enhancements for DUI drivers busted with minors in the car, and extends the amount of time an ignition interlock can be required for repeat offenders.
It also defines a part of current DUI law that deals with whether a person can get a DUI if the car is pulled over, essentially saying a driver needs to be out of the driver’s seat without the keys in the ignition, or they can be charged with DUI.
And while Goodman largely agrees with Padden’s approach, he also cites studies that show being forced to use ignition interlock devices for longer periods of time serves as a strong deterrent to repeat offenders.
Democratic Sen. David Frockt — who originally had his own bill to make a fourth DUI in 20 years a felony — was disappointed there was not enough support for Padden’s version to get it to a floor vote Wednesday.
Wednesday came with a 5 p.m. deadline for the House and Senate to pass their own bills, and shortly after 4 p.m. — with a universal health care bill expected to take the rest of the Senate’s time about to come up for debate — Republicans made a motion to bring Padden’s bill up for a vote.
The motion ran afoul of procedure and ultimately failed along party lines.
Frockt says there just wasn’t enough support on the Democrat side, again largely because of cost and prison-crowding concerns, as well as the fact that there were only minutes to go before the deadline.
But there is still a chance that the policy in Padden’s bill could come up again before the session ends next month.
Frockt says it could get new life if a minor revenue tweak is made and it’s reintroduced. He says the policy in the bill also could be added to Goodman’s bill when the Senate takes it up along with a treatment aspect, which might make it more appealing to critics.
Any amendments made to Goodman’s bill in the Senate would then have to be approved in the House, and that could be a tough sell with Goodman and others preferring to avoid the approach that locks more people up.