Out of 245 state lawmakers who voted this week on a locally promoted bill to curb drunken driving in Pennsylvania, all but one said yes.
Rep. Cris Dush, a Republican from Jefferson County, was the lone legislator who opposed the bill that would require most first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.
Such devices, attached to a vehicle’s steering wheel, require the driver to blow into a mouthpiece to check blood alcohol concentration before the engine can be started.
Under Senate Bill 290, repeat DUI offenders and first-time offenders who had a blood alcohol level above .10 at the time of their arrest would need to have the devices installed. Current Pennsylvania law requires ignition interlocks only after a second DUI conviction.
Dush, in a phone interview with LNP, said the fact that the devices would be mandatory for many first-time offenders was one issue for him.
“It gets rid of a lot of discretion on the part of officers and especially judges,” he said.
A former Air Force officer, Dush said he prefers the method the judge in his county takes, which he said allows for a little more flexibility for first-time offenders except in cases when the offender violates probation: “then he’ll hit them pretty hard.”
He would have voted in favor of the bill, he said, if it would encouraged judges to consider interlock devices on first offense rather than make it mandatory.
Dush also said the cost of the interlock devices were a concern.
Low-income offenders who are struggling to keep their families afloat would have a hard time paying the $50 fee to apply for the new limited license and the additional costs of buying or renting the device, he said.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the devices cost $70 to $150 to install and $60 to $80 per month for monitoring and calibration.
Rep. Keith Greiner, a Republican from Upper Leacock Township who advocated for the legislation in the House, said the cost to offenders is "relatively inexpensive" and cheaper than going to jail.
“In the end, I think in particular with this bill the realization was that it is going to save lives,” Greiner said in an interview Wednesday, a year and a half after he first got on board with pushing the legislation.
Other local officials who worked on the bill were Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-West Lampeter Township, and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, who advocated for it with local couple Chris and Susan Demko, whose 18-year-old daughter Meredith was killed in July 2014 by a driver who was drunk and high on heroin.
The bill was approved unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday after passing the House 193-2 on Monday, according to the online record of the vote.
However, the office of Rep. Barry Jozwiak, R-Berks County — the second negative vote — said it was a clerical error and he actually voted in favor of it.
It will now go to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, whose spokesman said a final signature is coming soon.