Tag Archives: container

On the ‘Open Container’ Law and Fed Funding

Tennessee and 18 other states are already restricted in how they spend some federal highway funds because they haven’t complied with federal mandates to combat drunken driving – notably by not enacting an “open container” law statewide. The Tennessean reports that 14 more states are facing the prospect of having federal funds held in reserve while the Federal Highway Administration completes an assessment of their laws.
A combined $539 million would have to be spent on anti-drunken-driving programs or highway safety improvements instead of on general road and bridge construction in those states.
…Jack Basso, chief operating officer of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said it appears the federal government has tightened its application of the rules.
“Probably they are within their authority,” Basso said. “The question is, is it really achieving the spirit of the law?”
Federal officials say they had to review states’ drunken-driving laws after Congress updated federal highway programs last year, including changes to some compliance requirements.
Tennessee’s open container laws for years have fallen short of federal regulations, said Kendell Poole, director of the state’s Governor’s Highway Safety Office. In Tennessee, it is legal for vehicle passengers to possess open containers of alcohol — just not drivers.
“Tennessee is known as a pass-the-bottle state,” Poole said. “The short of it is, because we don’t have an open container law that complies, we’re penalized road construction dollars. … But it comes back to the state in terms of behavioral programs, like the Booze It and Lose It campaign, and also grant awards.”
He said the state has been “penalized” similarly for at least a decade. The penalty means Tennessee can’t use the federal money for road construction projects but can divert it to alcohol-related public information campaigns and state transportation efforts that involve the installation of rumble strips, cable wire barriers and other hazard elimination projects.
Poole said his office supports strengthening the state’s open container laws, but legislative efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

Note: Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, has a bill to enact an “open container” law in Tennessee again this year as HB84. It’s not an administration bill, but there is a Haslam administration bill to rewrite the state’s DUI laws, as proposed by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. That bill is SB186.

Open Container Bill Fails Again

Yet another attempt to pass an “open container” law for Tennessee highways has been shot down at the state legislature, reports WPLN.
It is the sixth year in a row the bill has failed. (Note: Actually, I think the failures go back a couple of decades.) Currently a driver can not legally drink, but passengers can. Without an open container law, the driver can simply hand off his drink when pulled over by police.
The House State and Local Government Subcommittee voted 2 to 2 on the bill today, with five members failing to vote at all.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott wanted the bill as a weapon against drunk driving.
“I’m for anything that keeps alcohol out of vehicles. People have to remember that driving is a privilege, and not a right, in this state. For us to neglect the fact that drinking and driving affects our life and innocent people on the roads, I think, is irresponsible.”
A state transportation official says failure to pass the law costs Tennessee about $17 million in federal funds that would be spent on roads and bridges. The state does not completely forgo the money, instead it must be spent on highway safety programs, such as the “Booze It and Lose It” advertising campaign.

TN Meth Busts Declined With Loss of Federal Funding; Now Back Up

Clandestine meth lab busts recorded in Tennessee fell to 73 in March of this year, down from 219 for the same month in 2010, and the trend continued through June, reports The Commercial Appeal.
The numbers began rebounding in July with the new container system, reaching a total of 1,099 for the year through August, about 15 percent less than in 2010.
The state’s new anti-meth law was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in June. But the CA article indicates that had nothing to do with the end of the downward trend in the same month. Instead, the rebound in meth lab busts is credited to development of a new system for cleaning up the busted labs that was put into place after federal funding of meth lab cleanups was shut off.
With no new federal money to pay for private contractors, a do-it-yourself system in Tennessee now has police officers like those with the Memphis Organized Crime Unit dismantling and packing up potentially toxic meth labs themselves.
“It’s a much more effective and efficient method,” said Tommy Farmer, director of the state’s Chattanooga-based methamphetamine task force.
Last year in Tennessee alone, $4.5 million in federal funds funneled through the Drug Enforcement Administration was spent on cleaning up meth labs, Farmer said.
“We’re looking at reducing that in millions of dollars,” Farmer said.
With a “HAZMAT Container System” in place since July, Tennessee now is looking at average cleanup costs of about $500, down from $2,500 under the private contractor method, he said.

Recurring Open Container Bill Suffers Recurring Failure

State Rep. Jon Lundberg surprisingly took a recurring piece of his legislative agenda — his open container bill — off notice in a Tennessee House State and Local Government subcommittee on Wednesday, reports the Kingsport Times-News.
Lundberg’s so-called “pass the bottle” legislation would have created a misdemeanor offense to possess an open alcoholic beverage container within a vehicle’s passenger area on a public highway.
Lundberg, R-Bristol, was not able to get the bill out of subcommittee when it was controlled by Democrats in past years. But this year, the subcommittee is run by Republicans. Still, Lundberg appeared before the subcommittee and indicated he knew where the bill’s fate was again headed this year.