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.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed two tax cuts into law this week, including a reduction in the state sales tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent as well as a cut to the state’s Hall Income Tax for seniors ages 65 and older.
The bills are among more than 50 measures the governor signed as he continues to plow through measures passed by state lawmakers that ended April 19.
Full story, HERE. School Security
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that allows school districts to let people with police training be armed in schools.
The measure passed the House 82-15 and was approved 27-6 in the Senate.
It allows schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a 40-hour school security course.
The measure makes information about which teachers are armed or which schools allow the guns confidential to anyone but law enforcement.
Haslam included $34 million in his budget for local government officials to use on their priorities, which could include security measures. Ignition Interlock
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s ignition interlock law will apply to more drunken drivers under legislation signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Currently, ignition-locking devices, which force drivers to pass breath tests to start vehicles and keep them running, are required for DUI offenders whose blood alcohol level topped 0.15 percent.
This bill drops the level to the intoxication threshold of 0.08 percent and would require first-time offenders to get the devices. In turn, those convicted of DUI won’t get a restricted driver’s license and will be allowed to drive anywhere.
The measure was unanimously approved 95-0 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate.
It was sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Republican Rep. Tony Shipley of Kingsport.
Sponsors say Tennessee will become the 18th state in the nation to require first-time drunken driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle under legislation approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill first passed the House 95-0 under sponsorship of Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, then passed the Senate later in the day 31-0. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it.
Under current law, only repeat DUI offenders or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher can be required to install an interlock device. The bill (HB353) lowers the threshold to .08 blood alcohol content, the same level required to create a legal presumption of driving under the influence.
The devices require a driver to take a breath test for alcohol before starting a vehicle, which will not start if any alcohol is detected.
While required to have an interlock device installed, DUI offenders do not have to go through a year’s suspension of their license as the case under present law. Beavers said the effect is to allow them to be “getting their lives back together” while at the same time protecting the public by preventing drunken driving.
“With this bill, we know we can reduce the number of deaths on our highways,” said Beavers on the Senate floor with Shipley at her side.
Other states that have mandated interlock devices for first offenders have seen a 30 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, Beavers said, and a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that those required to have an interlock device are 67 percent less likely to become a repeat offender.