Topeka A Senate subcommittee on Friday approved a bill aimed at making drunken drivers spend more time in jail and pay higher fines.
Senate Bill 215 also includes a provision that makes refusing to take a blood-alcohol test a Class B misdemeanor, giving judges the option of making those who repeatedly refuse tests spend time in jail.
The bill now goes to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings on the bill are not expected until after March 19.
"This isn't the answer to all our problems on this issue, but it's a big step forward," said Sen. Greta Goodwin, D-Winfield, a member of the subcommittee.
Efforts to pass similar legislation stalled in 1999 and 2000.
"We have different people up here now; this is a different Legislature," Goodwin said. "I think this will pass the full committee, and I think it'll pass the Senate."
The bill has yet to be heard in the House.
Besides longer sentences and stiffer fines, the legislation:
l Requires offenders to complete a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, rather than sitting through a drunken driver's course.
l Limits DUI diversions to one per person, per lifetime.
l Adds 30 days to sentences for drunken drivers transporting children at the time of their arrest.
l After a second DUI conviction, requires offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles if their blood-alcohol content exceeded 0.15 percent. Currently, interlock devices are not required if an offender goes five years between convictions.
l Revoke licenses for two, three and 10 years, respectively, for second-, third- and fourth-time offenders who refuse to take a blood-alcohol test. Fifth-time offenders' licenses would be permanently revoked.
During the hearing Friday, Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, said he's opposed to permanently revoking a repeat offender's license.
"I'll vote for the bill, but I'm not for shutting the door on someone who finally gets their act together," he said. "There needs to be some kind of hope for these people."
The bill was initially crafted by a task forced assembled by Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall.
"I'm thrilled to see this get past the subcommittee," said Nancy Lindberg, a Stovall assistant who has been monitoring the bill's progress.