Dems block drunk driving proposals

Posted at: 01/25/2013 4:59 PM
Updated at: 01/25/2013 5:16 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Two key bills aimed at curbing New Mexico's drunk driving epidemic are dead on arrival in the state legislature.

The bills, targeting repeat drunk driving offenders, had powerful support from police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys around the state, but it wasn't enough to persuade Democrats on the committee that gave the bills their first and only hearing.

State Police Chief Robert Shilling said he still can't believe it - bills he thought were slam dunks turned out to be dead ducks.

One bill would have increased prison time for drunk drivers convicted four times or more. The other would have counted DWI convictions for "habitual offender" status and added more prison time.

"Here in New Mexico we give multiple bites at the apple," Shilling said. "If you have an offender out there racking up his twentieth DWI, he's never held accountable for all those other criminal acts."

The bills died in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, where three Democrats out-voted two Republicans. Democratic lawmakers argued that more treatment, not more jail time, is the way to go.

"It's extremely disappointing that just right away three people out of a five member committee, a very small committee, decided to kill those bills right away," said bill sponsor Rep. Tim Lewis, a Rio Rancho Republican. "It's sad for the citizens of New Mexico."