MADD not impressed by Vallario drunk-driving bill
A bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario to deal with the issue of installing ignition interlock devices on the vehicles owned by convicted drunk drivers is being dismissed by MADD Maryland as accomplishing nothing that doesn't exist under current law.
"Twelve pages of nothing," MADD Maryland executive director Caroline Cash calls it.
The bill, which had 30 co-sponsors from both parties, is one of several that have been introduced during the current General Assembly session on the topic of ignition interlock technology, which prevents a motorist from starting a car after consuming alcohol.
MADD supports legislation that would make installation of such devices mandatory for all those convicted on driving under the influence. Such a bill passed thhe Senate last year only to die in the Judiciary Committee when Vallario declined to bring it up for a vote.
This year the Prince George's County Democrat has weighed in with his own bill, but MADD isn't impressed. "It does nothing to increase the use if interlock -- let alone save lives and prevent injuries," said Caroline Cash, executive director of MADD Maryland.
Cash said she had at first been encouraged when she heard Vallario was proposing his own bill. But once interlock proponents read the full bill, they realized there was nothing mandatory about it, she said.
MADD supports a bill called the Drunk Driving Elimination Act, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Raskin and in the House by Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, both Montgomery County Democrats.
Cash said MADD would raise the issue with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who decided to retain Vallario as chairman despite protests last year from women delegates over the treatment of witnesses before the committee. She said the chairman's proposed bill isn't even as strong as the compromise legislation MADD rejected as too weak last year.
The Vallario bill would require drivers who are found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more -- or those who refuse an alcohol test -- to enter an ignition interlock program in order to avert a driver's license suspension. But Cash said that is no more than drivers are permitted to do now, adding that many drivers simply accept the suspension but continue driving anyway.
Vallario's role is crucial because as chairman he can prevent any bill he opposes from getting a vote in committee. In practical terms only the speaker, who appoints committee chairs, has the authority to tell him to bring a bill to a vote.