Grieving daughter seeks DWI changes

Posted: Sunday, February 04, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Grieving for a father killed by a drunken driver, Cindy Cashen went to a legislative hearing looking for tougher alcohol laws. She left disappointed.

The sponsor of a measure before the House Transportation Committee on Thursday gutted key provisions of his own bill, saying they were too expensive and overly burdensome.

Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, stripped a part that would have made a third drunken-driving conviction an automatic felony because it would have sent at least 800 new felons into the prison system, costing the state millions of dollars a year.

Kott also deleted a section requiring the state to confiscate cars belonging to people convicted of a third drunken-driving charge. Kott said it would cost more to seize cars than they would bring at auction in some cases, and the law would be difficult to enforce in rural areas.

Kott said he stripped the provisions after seeing the $40 million annual price tag on his original bill.

''When I looked at the fiscal note I asked myself, $40 million for this piece of the puzzle -- is this the best use of state dollars?'' said Kott, a leading member of the budget-conscious House Republican majority.

The revised bill would require all drivers to show proof of insurance to register their cars. It also would require treatment for alcohol offenders as much as possible while they are incarcerated.

The change did not go over well with the three members of the public who testified before the committee.

Cashen, a Juneau woman whose father, Ladd Macaulay, was killed by a drunken driver on the Seward Highway last year, made an emotional plea to the panel to adopt the original bill

When California and New York began seizing cars belonging to alcohol offenders, drunken driving fatalities dropped significantly, said Cashen, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She propped up several photographs showing the mangled wreckage of the car her father died in.

''Drunk driving can kill anyone,'' Cashen said, brandishing the photos one by one. ''This could be anyone's car, or anyone's truck ... or anyone's blood.''

Afterward, Kott told the panel he was willing to push his original bill, if the committee supported it.

''I'm more than willing to ride the horse to the trough,'' said Kott, adding his bill is only one of several in play to crack down on drunken drivers.

Palmer Republican Rep. Scott Ogan said he thought the bill went from too tough to too soft and suggested the committee find ways to make offenders pay the extra cost. The committee is expected to hear the bill again Tuesday.

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