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

May 14, 2013 at 2:45 PM

State Senate panel OK’s changes to DUI laws

OLYMPIA — A stiffening of state DUI laws championed by Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of lawmakers cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday, moving out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee unanimously.

Among other items, Senate Bill 5912 would add 10 days in jail to all minimum DUI sentences, make drunken driving a felony on the fourth conviction (it currently is on the fifth) and make the installation of an ignition interlock device a requirement for repeat DUI offenders to be released from jail.

The bill also would pilot a 24/7 alcohol-monitoring program as an alternative to prison, restrict deferred sentencing in drunken driving cases and expand DUI courts.

Those items all were agreed upon in recent negotiations between Inslee and the leaders of the Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over DUI issues. But the question of how to pay for them remains a key sticking point.

On Tuesday, the unanimous committee vote belied concerns from Democrats that the proposal doesn’t give enough money to local governments to implement the changes or devote enough to treatment.

Before the vote, senators made clear they were voting on the policy, not the financials of the plan.

The Senate version of the bill will next go to the budget committee that will decide if the state can afford the changes.

The House Public Safety Committee is expected to vote on a similar proposal soon.

Despite the remaining hurdles, Inslee expressed optimism about the bill in an afternoon news conference.

“I’m very happy about this,” he said. “I think this bodes well for us getting this done this special session.”

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: Adam Kline, drunken driving, DUI

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