Supporters Urge Maryland Lawmakers to Pass Drunk Driving Bill

Supporters of a proposed drunk driving law are pushing Maryland lawmakers to pass the bill as they enter their last day of legislative session on Monday.

The law, which requires ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers, is named after Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver. 

Noah's Law supporters are worried that additions to the bill could kill its chances of passing.

"We are here because Noah's law is in peril," Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said at a news conference Sunday.

The state Senate version of the bill would put ignition interlock devices on the cars of those convicted of driving under the influence. A driver would have to pass a breathalyzer test before the car would start.

Only repeat drunken drivers and drivers described as having been excessively drunk are currently ordered to use the ignition interlock devices in Maryland.

The House tacked on an punitive damages bill to the legislation that would increase penalties for death or injuries from drunk driving, however, that addition is getting little support.

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"That law, though it's a good law, does not have the votes to get it passed," said Rich Leotta, Noah Leotta's father.

Leotta and other supporters worry the added legislation could sink the whole measure and say it is a direct connection between a parliamentary move and public safety. 

"Shame on them. They would be killing more people in the state of Maryland if Noah's Law does not pass," Leotta said. "Some of these individuals represent drunk drivers when they're not doing their job as legislative body, so it's a pocketbook issue and I think they've been influenced by the liquor lobby." 

The eleventh-hour push comes as a committee is set to meet tomorrow in Annapolis to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the law. 

Lawmakers also will be working to pass a police reform bill and a tax-relief plan.

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