Topeka Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature unanimously backed a measure that would strengthen the state's DUI penalties, despite a concern by some that the bill didn't go far enough.
The bill requires all drivers convicted of driving under the influence to use interlock devices on their vehicles, creates a system to track repeat offenders and strengthens most penalties. It passed the House 121-0 and the Senate 39-0 on Thursday.
"It's a good law that will save lives," said Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, and chair of the House's Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. "This bill is a huge advancement for public safety in Kansas."
Some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill removes a requirement that drivers with five or more DUIs lose their licenses, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said when such a drunken driver kills someone, "we're likely to be back here on revocation."
Supporters said people drive drunk with or without a license. And they argued that the bill had too many good provisions to defeat.
Kinzer eventually agreed, saying the "overall impact is a step in the right direction."
The central repository created by the bill will give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges access to drivers' records, making it easier to track repeat offenders. Prosecutors can charge drivers with more severe crimes if they have multiple DUI convictions. The Kansas Department of Transportation will fund the repository with $2.5 million and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will oversee it.
The bill also requires first-time offenders to install a device on their vehicle that measures breath alcohol level. Drivers who don't pass the test will not be able to start their vehicles. The interlock devices will be mandatory for six months for first-time offenders and for 12 months for first-time offenders who have been convicted of an open container violation, had a blood alcohol level higher than .015 or had three or more moving traffic violations in a year.
Kansas already requires interlock devices for drivers convicted of a second drunken-driving offense, who refuse a Breathalyzer test, or who are caught with a 0.15 or greater blood alcohol level — almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.
The bill also raises the minimum fine for a DUI misdemeanor from $500 to $750.
Mary Ann Khoury, president and CEO of the DUI Victim Center of Kansas in Wichita, said earlier this week that she was pleased with aspects of the bill, but disappointed that the state did not make refusing a breath alcohol test a crime or raise taxes on alcohol.