The head of a state House subcommittee that handles drunken driving legislation said Tuesday that lowering the legal standard for DUI to 0.05 percent blood alcohol content is probably at least three years away in Tennessee.
Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and other legislators attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving news conference said next year’s legislative priority in the area likely will be lowering the blood alcohol standard — perhaps to zero — for those who have taken prescription medications.
“To have success in the Legislature, we need to do things incrementally,” said Shipley, responding to a question.
The .05 standard was recommended recently by the National Transportation Safety Board. State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, has said he intends to propose legislation next year setting that standard. Currently, Tennessee and most other states set 0.08 blood alcohol content as the level that creates a legal presumption of drunken driving.
Shipley said the lower level was “an achievable goal” but speculated it might be “2016 or so” before passage was possible. One consideration, he said, is the cost of jailing offenders convicted at between .05 percent and .08 percent and requiring them to get ignition interlock devices installed on their cars.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that Rep. Curry Todd has acknowledged and apologized for a “bad mistake” in being arrested on drunken driving and gun charges last week.
Haslam told reporters after a speech in Franklin that he had spoken with Todd at a charity golf tournament hosted by Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell and Democratic Rep. Gary Odom earlier in the day.
“I just asked him how he was doing … He said, ‘I realize I made a bad mistake and I’m sorry,'” Haslam said.
Todd, a Collierville Republican, was arrested in Nashville the night of Oct. 11 after failing a roadside sobriety test and refusing to take a breath test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found in a holster stuffed between the driver’s seat and center console.
“It was a big mistake from Rep. Todd that could have had dangerous consequences, and I think he’s aware of that as well,” Haslam said.
“Drinking and driving is wrong under any circumstances,” he said. “Now obviously having a weapon in the car makes it worse.”
Todd, a retired Memphis police officer who holds a state handgun carry permit, was charged with possession of a gun while under the influence and drunken driving. He posted bail of $3,000 and was released from jail Wednesday morning.
Todd also led an effort to enact a new state law that allows handgun carry permit holders to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, if they don’t drink.
Haslam declined to weigh in on whether Todd should remain chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee following his arrest.
“I don’t think that’s my proper role to decide that. That’s why we have that branch of government,” Haslam said. “I’ll let the speaker and others in House leadership make that call.”
Haslam’s approach mirrors statements made by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville, who said last week that Todd should be “punished to the fullest extent of the law,” but that it was up to the House to decide his leadership status.
Harwell was travelling out of state last week and said she wanted to meet with Todd before making a decision about whether he will keep his chairmanship.
A Cocke County election commissioner and businessman faces charges of vehicular homicide and drunken driving after authorities say he struck and killed a Vermont woman riding a bicycle Tuesday night, reports the News Sentinel. Dan Ford of Hartford Road in Cosby had been drinking before the 9:42 p.m. impact, according to a report filed by Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Dennis Jenkins.
Ford was traveling north on state Highway 73 in a 2001 GMC 2500 Sierra pickup when he encountered two women riding bicycles, according to Jenkins’ report. The speed limit on that stretch of highway is 45 mph.
Jenkins said the truck struck both bicyclists.
The impact killed Katelin Richardson, 21, of Jeffersonville, Vt., Jenkins said. Richardson was not wearing a bicycle helmet, but Jenkins’ probe concluded the device probably would not have saved the woman’s life.
The second bicyclist, Rachel Warren, 19, of Seattle, Wash., was not injured.
Jenkins noted Ford had been drinking an alcoholic beverage, and more tests were ordered to determine if drugs also were involved in the crash. Ford was using a seat belt and was not injured.
Ford was freed from jail after posting a $50,000 bond.
He is an election commissioner in Cocke County. Ford is a former chair of the Cocke County Republican Party and ran in 2008 for state representative but lost to the incumbent. (Note: He was the Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-Greeneville, who lost then in 2010 to Rep.Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby.)