Delaware skips vote on lower drunken driving limits

| 9/26/2003

The Delaware Senate did not vote on a bill to lower the state’s drunken-driving threshold during a brief special session Sept. 24, The New Castle-Wilmington News Journal reported.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner had planned to call Senators back to the Capitol Sept. 24 to vote on two judicial nominees, The News Journalreported recently, which would also allow them to vote on lowering the blood alcohol limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent by Sept. 30.

If the state doesn’t lower the limit by the end of the month, it stands to lose $1.6 million in federal highway funds. The penalty increases in future years.

The Delaware State News reported earlier in the week that the Senate was unlikely to vote on the bill.

A number of legislators, including some Senate leaders, have said publicly in the past that they opposed the effort to lower the limit.

HB111 passed the House in April, but it has languished since then in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to lowering the basic limit, under the bill, if a driver were over 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit under the bill, that driver would not be eligible for the state’s First Offender Program.

A 2000 federal law requires each state’s legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by 2004 or lose 2 percent of its highway money. If the state doesn’t lower its limit to 0.08 by October, it stands to lose $1.6 million in federal highway funds, the Delaware State News reported recently. The penalty escalates in future years. States that adopt the new limit by 2007 can recover the withheld funds.

The Delaware General Assembly is usually in session from January through late June. It cannot take up another measure on drunken driving limits until its next session begins.