Haslam happy with foul-up fix

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today applauded members of the 109th General Assembly for preventing the loss of $60 million in federal highway funds.

The governor thanked the General Assembly for an efficient special session to pass legislation that modifies a state drunk driving statute after the U.S. Department of Transportation deemed the state out of compliance with a federal “zero tolerance” law.

“I am grateful to the General Assembly for quickly convening and passing legislation that clarifies our drunk driving law to remove any question of compliance with federal requirements. Although we disagreed with the interpretation that Tennessee was out of compliance, this special session was necessary to avoid any negative impact to the state,” Haslam said.

The legislation passed Wednesday, sponsored by Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown), modifies Pub. Ch. 1030, which the legislature passed overwhelmingly during the 2016 legislative session and the governor signed into law. While the law actually strengthened penalties for DUI offenders aged 18 to 20, last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notified the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) that the law put the state out of compliance with a federal “zero tolerance” drunk driving statute. NHTSA indicated Tennessee would permanently lose $60 million if it remained out of compliance as of October 1. The bill passed today includes minor alterations that more directly track the wording of federal law.

“I especially want to thank Sen. McNally and Rep. Lamberth for their leadership and dedication to making Tennessee safer. The intent of their original legislation was to save lives, and I appreciate their willingness to help clarify that law and prevent the state from losing federal highway funds,” Haslam added.

Prior to the special session, both TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery agreed that Tennessee continues to meet the requirements of federal “zero tolerance” drunk driving statute.

All 11 members of the bipartisan Tennessee congressional delegation urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to work with Haslam and state officials to find a solution to avoid a special session.