Emma’s Law bill could be finalized by next week

jmonk@thestate.comApril 3, 2014 

Rep. Eddie Tallon, Rep-Spartanburg, gives a thumbs up to the Longstreet family in the balcony after Emma's Law passed the S.C. House.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com Buy Photo

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— Emma’s Law could be passed by the S.C. Senate and be on its way to the governor for her signature as early as next week, supporters said Thursday.

That’s because the S.C. House unanimously gave third and final reading to the bill on Thursday, and bill floor leader Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, personally delivered the paperwork to the S.C. Senate minutes later.

The bill is the toughest measure in years aimed at curbing the state’s high numbers of people killed by drunk drivers. Aimed at hard-core drunken drivers, the bill is named after Emma Longstreet, the 6-year-old Lexington girl killed by a repeat-offender drunken driver in 2012.

Although the House version differs somewhat from the original Senate version passed 13 months ago, Emma’s Law supporters hope to get the Senate to concur with the House version – a relatively simply parliamentary process requiring only one majority vote to send the bill to Gov. Nikki Harley.

Still, any senator could add an amendment to the House version that might bog the bill down until the end of the legislative session and possibly kill it altogether, supporters said.

“Our goal is to keep the bill clean,” bill sponsor Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said Thursday.

If and when it is signed by Haley, the bill would take effect Oct. 1.

A main feature of the bill requires all persons who are convicted of, or who plead guilty to, DUI with a blood alcohol content of .15 or above on first offense to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicles for six months. The Breathalyzer-like device will not let someone start the vehicle if he or she has a blood alcohol content of .02 or above.

The widespread use of such devices has been shown to significantly decrease DUI fatalities in other states, Centers for Disease Control studies say.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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