The Senate Law and Justice Committee unanimously approved a DUI bill on the second day of special session, moving it forward to the budget-writing committee.
Senate Bill 5912 targets repeat offenders by making driving under the influence a felony if it is the driver’s fourth conviction. Currently, it takes five DUI convictions before becoming a felony. It also increases mandatory minimum sentences and creates alcohol monitoring programs.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill “still has a ways to go.” He urged lawmakers to pass the bill out of committee so that lawmakers can begin examining the fiscal impact in the Senate Ways and Means committee.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, introduced an amendment that would have paid for the new law by continuing a beer tax that is set to expire in June. He cited studies that say that more than 72 percent of DUI convictions come as a result of drinking beer, not wine or liquor. “The nexus is there for the extension of a beer surcharge,” Kline said.
Speaking against the amendment, Padden said that the DUI legislation has broad support and “people are committed” to finding a way to fund it.
The beer tax amendment failed, as did a similar amendment by Kline that would have paid for the law with a liquor excise tax. However, the committee did vote to pass “without recommendation” two bills sponsored by Kline (5915 and 5917) that call for funding the new law with the beer and liquor taxes.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee said that DUI legislation is one of the go-home priorities during special session. He also said the Legislature must focus on an operating budget and a transportation revenue package. Watch his press conference here.