Anti-drunken-driving advocates in Annapolis say they are worried that a proposal to toughen restrictions for people convicted of driving under the influence will die in the House Judiciary Committee, even though 14 of 22 committee members have signed on as co-sponsors.
The bill was on the list of legislation to be voted on Tuesday night but was removed without explanation. It needs to pass out of committee before moving forward.
The proposed legislation would require all those convicted of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more to use a breathalyzer to start their vehicles.
Under current law, suspected drunk drivers must participate in the ignition lock program if they fail such a test with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more.
That law passed four years ago, a year after Judiciary Committee chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s) blocked passage of a stricter version that had been approved by the state Senate with overwhelming support. The state considers drivers to be drunk if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher.
Advocates with Mothers Against Drunk Driving were hopeful at the start of this year’s legislative session that the stricter version of the bill would advance, because so many members of the House committee were co-sponsors.
A similar piece of legislation also is pending in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Twenty-one other states have mandatory ignition lock programs for convicted drunk drivers, regardless of the blood alcohol level that was measured for the offense.
“I have lobbied in 40 states, and I have never run into this level of lock by the good old boys,” said Chuck Hurley, the legislative chairman for the group’s Maryland chapter and the former executive director for MADD’s national office.
Vallario denied that he is trying to kill the bill and said his committee is swamped with other bills, including proposals to allow the parole commission to grant parole to inmates with life sentences and to change mandatory-minimum laws.
He also said he does not see a need to toughen the state’s ignition-lock program.
“We’ve done enough with that,” Vallario said. “We have one of the best [ignition-lock] programs in the country, and we think it works well.”