Colorado panel OKs drunken-driving bill

| 10/17/2003

Some Colorado state lawmakers are ready to bow to pressure to preserve millions in federal highway dollars, according to local media.

The Transportation Legislation Review Committee gave tentative approval Oct. 15 to support lowering the state's drunken-driving threshold from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent, The Durango Herald reported. The measure will be introduced when the Legislature convenes in January 2004.

A 2000 federal law required each state's legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by Oct. 1, 2003, or lose 2 percent of its highway money. Colorado is one of only four states (Delaware, Minnesota and West Virginia being the others) to defy the federal mandate.

Colorado's previous refusal to adhere to the standard cost the state $4.9 million in highway dollars when lawmakers ignored the Oct. 1 deadline, The Denver Post reported. Next year, the loss will be $9.9 million, with the penalty growing to nearly $20 million each year beginning in 2007.

"I resent the federal blackmail as much as anyone," Sen. Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, told The Herald. "But there's no point to continue to make a point that nobody in the federal government cares if we make or not."

States that adopt the new limit by Oct. 1, 2006, can recover the withheld funds.