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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

April 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Lawmakers, governor discussing changes to state’s DUI laws

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee plans to meet with lawmakers Tuesday afternoon to discuss strengthening Washington state’s drunken-driving laws in the aftermath of recent tragedies, according to several invitees.

The 1 p.m. meeting comes hours after the state’s Impaired Driving Working Group gathered in the Capitol to brainstorm a variety of ideas, from making DUI a felony on the third offense — it currently is on the fifth — to requiring cars impounded during DUI arrests automatically be outfitted with ignition interlock devices.

Some were also considering proposals like establishing random sobriety checkpoints and lifetime driving bans after a certain number of DUI convictions.

The biggest obstacle to many of the ideas is budgetary.

Making DUI a felony on the third offense, for example, would likely force the state to build a new prison at the cost of some $200 million, according to state House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman.

But at the heated Capitol meeting, the nearly 50 attendees were in no mood to talk financials.

“What about people’s lives?” asked Karen Minahan, a 65-year-old Redmond woman lost her right leg to a drunken driver in 1997. “There are things that are bigger than money.”

Goodman, who chairs the working group, said he is committed to reducing drunken driving. But it has to be done in a realistic way, he said.

“We have to reduce the problem,” Goodman told the attendees. “We can’t fantasize about eliminating the problem.”

The Senate Law & Justice Committee has scheduled a Thursday morning hearing on the “the driving under the influence act of 2013.”

Lawmakers haven’t yet figured out what that bill will contain, Goodman said. But much┬ámay be determined this afternoon, he said.

Comments | More in Governor, State Legislature | Topics: DUI, Jay Inslee, Roger Goodman

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