Topeka A proposal to vastly change the state's laws and penalties for driving under the influence is getting a chilly reception from many Kansas legislators, who complain that implementing all the reforms could cost the state up to $10 million.
But Sen. Tim Owens, who led a commission that recommended the changes, said he is confident at least some of the proposals will be saved.
After a two-year study, the Kansas DUI Commission recommended creating a statewide computer repository of driving under the influence cases. It also suggested better treatment programs for offenders, penalties for refusing to take a breath test and stiffer consequences for repeat offenders.
"I think we're going to do it," Owens, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Topeka Capital-Journal. "It's a huge public safety effort. That's one of the main governmental functions we have."
But Sen. John Vratil, a Republican from Leawood and vice president of the Senate, said the legislation was simply too costly at a time when the state faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit. He said without fixing the estimated costs, the bill is stalled.
The proposal to impose penalties for refusing to take a breath test is drawing the most criticism because of the increased workload for county courts and the need to house more inmates, Owens said.
A proposal for mandatory prison time for fourth-time offenders also would increase the inmate population at state prisons. Like all other state agencies, the Kansas Department of Correction is facing budget cuts. It has already closed three state prison facilities in the past two years.
Those two proposals which would cost an estimated $7 million annually, will be either dropped or significantly modified to slash the cost, Owens said.
The Overland Park Republican is adamant about saving the central repository, at an estimated cost of $3 million. The state's failure to track that information lets repeat offenders go free, or doesn't give the state the chance to impose the proper penalties, Owens said.
Owens also would like to keep a proposed unified evaluation and treatment system offering more help for people who have several DUIs.
"We need to fix the problem," Owens said. "We can get to the blame later."
The bill would require all first-time drunken driving offenders have an ignition-locking device in their vehicle to prevent the vehicle from operating if the driver tested positive for alcohol.
Owens said the Senate Judiciary Committee would propose a streamlined version of the bill within the next two weeks.