The Iowa House last night voted to lower the standard for judging who’s driving drunk in Iowa. The legal blood alcohol limit would be lowered to .08, but the House also voted to make it easier for first-time drunken drivers who don’t cause a wreck or blow higher than a .10 blood alcohol level to get a permit to drive to work. Supporters of the bill, like Representative Paul Bell, a policeman from Newton, say it is a safety issue. Bell says Illinois has seen a 15 percent drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities since point-oh-eight became law there. Representative Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says the lower drunken driving standard will not “ensnare” the casual drinker. McCarthy says under current law, he’d have to drink six beers in an hour to get too drunk to drive. Under the .08 standard, McCarthy would have to drink five beers in an hour, a difference he says it negligible. Opponents, like Representative Dan Boddicker of Tipton, say the state is buckling to federal blackmail, because the state stands to lose MILLIONS in federal road construction money if it doesn’t make the move to a tougher drunken driving law. Representative Lance Horbach of Tama says most legislators who voted for the bill did it to get the federal money. Horbach says the people causing the fatal accidents are those with a blood alcohol level above .15, and aren’t the people at .08 or .09, who he describes as “responsible people.” The bill passed the House an 81-to-15 vote, as about five dozen members of ABATE- A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education – Iowa sat in the gallery watching. ABATE activist Mark Maxwell of Des Moines says motorcyclists are opposed to toughening Iowa’s drunken driving law to a .08 blood alcohol level. The motorcyclists are afraid that once Iowa legislators bow to what they consider federal blackmail on the drunken driving issue, they’d do the same when it comes to a manditory motorcycle helmet law. Iowa will get a two-million dollar bonus payment from the feds by passing the point-oh-eight law, and will avoid losing over four-and-a-half million dollars in road construction money next year. The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.
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