2 - Objectives and Methodology
With federal programs to encourage the adoption of lower BAC limits, as of May 2001 twenty-five states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had established .08 BAC as the illegal limit. Repeated efforts in many other states to pass .08 legislation have been unsuccessful.
Rather than provide incentives to states that enact .08 per se laws, Congress has now decided to withhold federal highway funds from states that do not pass .08 per se laws by 2004. Consequently, it is expected that over the course of the next four years, legislators in more states will introduce bills to lower the illegal BAC limit in their states.15
The general objective for this project was to study the legislative and political processes of six states that either: (a) recently lowered their illegal per se laws from .10 to .08; or (b) attempted unsuccessfully to enact .08 per se legislation in recent sessions.
The specific objectives of this study were to:
- document the roles, strategies, tactics, leadership, statutory provisions, resources, and arguments used in efforts to pass .08 per se laws in the six states; and
- compare and note contrasts between the findings among states with new .08 per se laws, and discuss whether similar efforts and obstacles might be expected in other states with campaigns to pass .08 per se laws.
The states used for this study consisted of the following: Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Virginia (states that have passed .08 per se), as well as Maryland and Minnesota (states that, as of the time of this study, had been attempting to pass this legislation for several
The most important criterion for site selection was recent consideration of the legislation. States where .08 legislation was recently introduced would logically yield the most information. States that passed .08 laws in more recent years would most likely have current lists of contacts which would allow project staff to locate more individuals who were involved in the process, as well as written materials such as reports, analyses and handouts. In addition, contacts' recall was expected to be more accurate if the legislative session was relatively recent.
Aside from recent consideration of the legislation, site selection took into account the intensity of the .08 debate in each state. Certain states where .08 per se passed in recent years were not selected because the legislation was achieved without much debate in the legislature; these states might therefore not yield as much information about obstacles and supporting strategies as other states where the debate was much more complex. Feedback was obtained from NHTSA, MADD and Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, as to which states would present the most interesting case studies.
In-depth discussions were conducted with a wide range of individuals involved in the political and legislative process in each state. For each of the states, project staff spoke with legislators both for and against .08 per se, as well as lobbyists and representatives from special interest groups on both sides of the issue. State-level agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Police, and the state's Department of Transportation were also consulted. In addition, project staff approached representatives from national organizations such as MADD, the Century Council, and the American Beverage Institute (ABI). Although these organizations are national in scope, they generally offer assistance and advice to local chapters at the state level, and therefore, they often play a significant role in the state legislative process.
Many contacts spoke with project staff on the condition that project staff would assure confidentiality; accordingly, we have avoided the use of our contacts' names throughout this report.
In addition to our conversations with pertinent individuals, project staff also assembled copies of available materials concerning the .08 per se debate, including but not limited to:
- copies of the legislation;
- transcripts or tape recordings of the hearings on .08 per se;
- analyses of bills prepared by legislative staff;
- newspaper articles, editorials, and press releases covering the .08 per se debate; and
- handouts, flyers, and other literature provided to the legislators by supporters and/or opponents of the legislation.
A topic guide was developed so that similar types of information would be gathered for each jurisdiction, with the understanding that participants were asked different questions depending upon their specific roles and perspectives. No one individual was asked every question, and even when project staff sought the same types of information from two contacts, the wording of the questions and the order in which the questions were posed was different in each case.
What initiated the movement to lower the illegal BAC level to .08? Were there any events which prompted the movement? (Ask both advocates and opponents to gain their viewpoints.)
Which individuals and/or groups were responsible for initiating the .08 movement? Did the initiative involve political pressure "from above" or did it gain strength from the "bottom up?" What was the relative importance of grassroots organizations or movements in initiating the process? (Also identify the groups.) What was the relative importance of national or state organizations in initiating the process? (Also identify the groups.) Did federal incentives provide impetus or factor into discussions?
Who were the key players (individuals, groups, coalitions, lobbyists, spokespersons) both in favor and against the passing of .08 legislation? Who were the most prominent leaders in each of the two camps, and how were they effective? Was there a successful coalition? How was it built and organized? Was there a task force or study commission? What roles, if any, did any of the following groups play: defense bar, prosecutorial bar, courts (or administrative branch), DMV, treatment professionals, law enforcement?
Was a "mission statement" or policy written by proponent and opponent groups? What individuals and organizations were instrumental in shaping policy for proponents and opponents? Can we obtain copies?
What were the arguments used by advocates and opponents to support their views? What arguments proved effective to persuade legislators and/or the Governor to support/oppose the legislation? Were quantitative/statistical data used?
At what point did the proponents/opposition become well organized? What about the opposing side? (Ask both camps to gather perceptions about their own organizations as well as their thoughts about the other side.)
What resources (i.e., support and funding sources) were each of the two camps successful in mobilizing to generate support for their views? How did they do it? What resources were they unsuccessful in mobilizing, and why? Were the services of a paid lobbyist retained (ask all parties)?
What materials were useful and can we obtain copies?
What was the role (if any) of the media in the process?
What was the role (if any) of law enforcement agencies in the process?
What was the public's perception towards .08 legislation? Was local public opinion and knowledge of the topic ever measured (through polls or otherwise)?
Were there any prior attempts to pass .08 legislation that failed? If so, what are the perceived major factors leading to the defeat of the bill on those occasions?
Was the successful legislation part of an omnibus bill or an individual piece of legislation? What were the legislative obstacles faced in the passing of .08? What strategies and tactics were used by opponents in the legislature to prevent the passing of the bill? How did .08 supporters overcome these obstacles?
Were there any trade-offs made to get the legislation passed? If so, how were compromises reached? How did the key players in the process (coalitions, organizations, individuals) react to such compromises?
What is the perceived major factor resulting in the eventual passage of the .08 law?
(For both advocates and opposition) In retrospect, what would they have done differently? What would they advise others to do when faced with similar circumstances?
- It should be noted that the present study was conducted prior to
the passage of the Department of Transportation's 2001 Appropriations Bill in
- During the 2001 Legislative Session, the
Maryland General Assembly enacted a .08 per se law, scheduled to become
effective on September 30, 2001.