House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative deal Tuesday on legislation allowing a limited driver’s license for first-time drunken drivers to go to work, medical treatment, school or other locations approved by a New Hampshire judge.
The sides compromised over the time the license must be suspended before the limited license is issued. The House had proposed a minimum 14-day suspension while the Senate had set it at 60 days. They compromised on 45 days.
House negotiators at first proposed a 30-day suspension as a compromise instead of 60 days. They argued that was sufficient time to arrange counseling sessions and would not prove too much of a hardship on the driver’s family who would likely be driving the person to work.
“That will prevent people who mess up one time from losing their jobs,” said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton.
But Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, said that was not a stiff enough punishment.
“I know people make mistakes but there have to be consequences,” he said.
People applying for the special license would have to have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle and could only drive to specified locations, such as to work or to attend an alcohol or drug treatment program. They would be required to carry a copy of the judge’s order with them and provide a copy to local law enforcement to have on file.
The House and Senate still must approve the compromise next week. If approved, the law wouldn’t take effect until 2016 to give the state time to prepare for the new license.
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