North Dakota House kills bill to strengthen DUI penalties

2013-03-29T13:52:00Z North Dakota House kills bill to strengthen DUI penaltiesBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

A bill that would have stiffened penalties for drunken driving died Friday with two-thirds of the North Dakota House voting it down.

Senate Bill 2240 would have increased the fines and jail time for DUI convictions and expanded the state’s 24/7 Sobriety Program. After passing the Senate 47-0 on Feb. 19, SB2240 failed by a 28-63 vote in the House with little debate.

“I’m going to ask the assembly to kill this bill,” said Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield.

But it wasn’t due to any unwillingness to address drunken driving in North Dakota, he said.

Weisz said members of the chamber already passed House Bill 1302, which also increases penalties for DUI.

Weisz said the Legislature should deal with HB1302 as its lone piece of alcohol legislation “rather than having conference committees on two bills.”

HB1302 passed the House by an 80-14 vote on Feb. 27. The next scheduled hearing on HB1302 is set for Friday morning in Senate Appropriations.

Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, urged lawmakers to pass SB2240. He said the penalties outlined in SB2240 are stronger than those in HB1302. He added that he believed that the “higher powers” in the Legislature seem interested in pushing HB1302 over the Senate bill.

Gruchalla said the number of deaths on North Dakota roads due to alcohol was unacceptable.

He said the Legislature needs to increase penalties for DUI and approve up-front costs for enforcing stiffer penalties “if we’re really serious about the slaughter on our highways.”

The vote on SB2240 came immediately after Gruchalla’s remarks.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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