OLYMPIA — After days of discussions, Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers said Tuesday they are nearing agreement on a far-ranging plan to overhaul Washington state’s drunken driving laws.
The lawmakers said they are working on a compromise bill to put a renewed emphasis on preventing DUI offenders from consuming alcohol. But they cautioned the details are not finalized and at least two other bills are under consideration.
The competing plans come three weeks after a fatal collision in Seattle spurred lawmakers to focus on DUI laws.
The draft of the main proposal would stiffen sentences for drunken driving convictions, establishing a six-month minimum sentence for the second conviction and one-year minimum for the third. But it would let offenders opt out of jail by participating in a new state program in which they’d have to prove they’re sober at all times.
That program, which would be run out of the state Attorney General’s Office, is modeled on a successful effort in South Dakota.
The draft bill would also prohibit those convicted of a third DUI from buying or being served alcohol for 10 years. To accomplish that, lawmakers would create a special driver’s license and require everybody to be carded — not just those who appear young.
Only Alaska has a law like that, said state House Public Safety Chairman Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. New Mexico is considering something similiar, he said.
The bill would also require cars impounded during DUI arrests be outfitted with ignition interlock devices. Currently, the devices are required for DUI offenders, but the offenders must get it installed themselves.
Finally, the bill would expand DUI courts and reduce deferred sentencing for DUI charges.
“It’s a comprehensive approach,” Goodman said.
The bill would take effect in 2015.
The proposal, introduced as House Bill 2030 and Senate Bill 5912, will be discussed at a 2 p.m. news conference Tuesday. It is also scheduled to be heard during a joint hearing of the House Public Safety and Senate Law & Justice committees Thursday.
The chairman of the Senate committee, Spokane Valley Republican Mike Padden, said his panel will also hear a second proposal, Senate Bill 5902, that would make drunken driving a felony on the fourth offense.
It’s currently a felony on the fifth offense.
Goodman said he likes Padden’s proposal but doesn’t know if the state can afford to house the new prisoners it would bring.
State Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he is preparing a bill of his own that would pay for Padden’s proposal while also funding mandatory alcoholism treatment for DUI offenders and increased enforcement of ignition interlock device installation.
Kline says his proposal would extend the expiring beer tax and dedicate the money solely to DUI response.
“If this is important, let’s put our money where our mouth is,” he said.