Nevada drunken-driving bill advances

| Friday, May 30, 2003

The threat of losing $28 million in federal highway funds is helping to push through a proposal in the Nevada Legislature to lower the state's legal blood-alcohol limit.

AB7, sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, lowers the standard for drunken driving in the state from 0.10 percent blood alcohol content to 0.08 percent.

The Assembly approved the measure May 27 by a 33-9 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

Manendo's bill has an $82,000 cost to the state Department of Corrections included with it over two years due to an expected increase in the number of inmates sent to prison for driving under the influence, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The cost is based on one additional inmate being sent to prison every four months for a three-year sentence.

Those costs pale, however, when compared to the penalties Nevada will incur beginning next year from the federal government if the limit is not lowered.

A 2000 federal law requires each state's legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by 2004 or lose 2 percent of its road money.

Nevada would lose $28.4 million in federal money over the next four years if it does not lower the limit, the newspaper reported.

States that adopt the new limit by 2007 can recover the withheld funds.

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