Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

Ignition interlock thrives in Senate, ails in House

The Baltimore Sun, By Michael Dresser, March 22, 2011

A bill that would require the installation of ignition interlock devices on the vehicles owned by all those convicted of drunk driving in Maryland has passed two key tests in the Senate, but appears to be on the rocks in the House.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to the MADD-backed bill Tuesday after adopting amendments to eliminate a requirement that drivers who refuse blood-alcohol tests be forced into the program. The action followed approval of the bill Monday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The measure appears poised for easy approval in the Senate, which passed similar legislation last year. But a companion measure in the House of Delegates appears no closer to passage than last year, when it was killed in the House Judiciary Committee without a vote.

Caroline Cash, executive director of MADD Maryland, said that when highway safety advocates met with committee Chairman Joseph Vallario Jr. and Vice Chairman Kathleen Dumais Monday, they were told the chairman favors his version of the legislation that would restrict the mandatory program to repeat offenders and those found to have been driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of .15 percent.

The MADD-backed bill applies to all drivers who are convicted at driving with a BAC of .08 or above, the level that qualifies for a charge of driving under the influence in all 50 states.

Vallario’s position comes as no surprise because the Prince George’s County Democrat took essentially the same position last year. But Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat, is a former member of the drunk driving task force that recommended ignition interlock and other strong measures to the General Assembly.

Cash said MADD would oppose the Vallario bill if it comes out of committee, contending that it would do no more than codify the status quo. The MADD leader said her group would appeal to House Speaker Michael E. Busch to intervene in favor of its preferred version of the legislation.

Cash’s briefing came late in the day, and Getting There was unable to reach Vallario or Busch for their take.

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