CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A head-on collision that killed eight University of Wyoming runners was cited as a reason the state needs a law requiring mandatory testing of drivers involved in fatal accidents.
Rep. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, sponsor of House Bill 61, said the measure addresses issues raised by the Sept. 16 crash south of Laramie.
Clint Haskins, the driver of the pickup truck which crossed the center line and struck the athletes vehicle, has admitted in court he was driving drunk.
However, prior to the guilty plea, his attorney argued that a blood sample drawn shortly after the wreck should not have been allowed as evidence because Haskins had not consented to it and that the release of the test results violated the physician-patient relationship.
The Wyoming Supreme Court later ruled the blood test was admissible.
HB61 would make a blood or urine test mandatory in crashes involving death or serious injury, and a driver who refuses would lose his or her license for six months. Results of the test or evidence of refusal would both be admissible in court.
The measure was forwarded on a 57-1 vote by the House, far exceeding the 40 votes necessary for introducing legislation during this years special session.
Another issue related to the athlete deaths, widening of 10 segments of state highways from two to four lanes, failed. House Bill 13, which would have diverted $22 million from mineral tax income to jump-start the $800 million highway project, garnered only 26 of 40 needed for introduction.
A bill in the Senate that would have taken $200 million from the general fund to launch the project also failed.
With two days left for bills to be introduced, only one measure related to the highway plan remained. Sponsored by Rep. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, it would spend $42 million from the general fund to widen U.S. 287, the stretch of road where the athletes died.
By a 46-14 vote the House introduced a measure sponsored by Rep. Jane Warren, D-Laramie, that would reduce the states legal blood-alcohol level for drivers from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent.
Studies show that at a 0.08 blood-alcohol content, virtually everyone is impaired, she said. Passing this measure sends a message that this state is getting tougher on drunk drivers.
Rep. Chris Boswell, D-Green River, a tavern owner, said the time has come for Wyoming to embrace a lower blood-alcohol limit.
I have resisted these types of measures in the past but I think its time to wake up and smell the coffee, he said.
Of 47 bills considered Wednesday, representatives voted down 13. Among those that died were ones that would have:
Defined and repealed corporal punishment in schools;
Proposed a constitutional amendment to put aside a share of sales tax income in a long-term trust fund;
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Provided $1.7 million to install fire sprinkler systems in community college dormitories;
Provided $1 million to restore the Historic Governors Mansion;
Limited disclosure of information obtained from genetic tests;
Allowed camping, hunting and fishing on state lands;
Exempted farms from being required to limit certain odors;
Raised the severance tax on coal by 3 percent; and
Increased the maximum income level to participate in the states child health insurance program.
Among the bills that were introduced and will be further debated are ones that would:
Raise legislators pay from $125 to $225 per day;
Boost law enforcement retirement benefits;
Appropriate $2.3 million to transfer programs to the Department of Workforce Services;
Increase longevity pay for state workers from $30 to $40 per month for each five years of service;
Allow law enforcement agencies to assist agencies in other states;
Allow betting on pari-mutuel events by phone or other electronic means;
Authorize the sale of pull tabs, similar to scratch-and-win tickets, at certain events; and
Allow game wardens to cite dog owners for harassing or injuring big game rather than killing the dog.
The House has 113 bills left to consider for introduction.
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