Georgia Ignition Interlock Bill Stalls in State Legislature

By Topher

The legal battles over ignition interlock law has made it to the state of Georgia, as lawmakers debate a measure that would require more convicted DUI offenders to use the mechanism on their cars.

According to the Savannah Morning News, the bill, brought by state representative Tom Knox, is waiting to be reviewed by Georgia’s House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are urging the committee’s chairman, Burke Day, to schedule a hearing. Day has said that he will do so, but that he doesn’t know if he’ll do so in time for the state House to act on it this session.

In particular, the bill would allow judges to order the installation of ignition interlock on an automobile after a person’s first DUI conviction. The option for a judge to do so currently exists only for a person’s second DUI conviction.

According to MADD, Burke Day is “holding up and blocking” a hearing on the bill.

Day, in response, has said that he isn’t against interlock bills, but that he is “simply not going to let just any bill out until I have more facts,” and he emphasized that it is his job as chairman to make sure that bills are well-researched.

Day said that the state’s budget crisis has tied up hearing schedules, making it difficult to hold a public hearing about the proposed bill.

According to MADD representatives, in 2008 Georgia saw 416 drunk driving related deaths. They also said efforts similar to the proposed bill have reduced drunk driving deaths elsewhere by more than 30 percent.

While Day maintained that there were “other sides” to the issues raised by the bill, MADD lobbyist Frank Harris said that he had not heard about any opposition to the proposed bill. Day in turn responded that a public hearing often unearths this sort of opposition.

If the bill should stall this year, it will need a new sponsor next year, because Knox is giving up his spot as state representative in order to run for insurance commissioner. Of the bill, he said “I think it’s a good bill, and a necessary one.”

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