Executive Summary

This report documents the legislative history of .08 per se laws at the state level. It was conducted prior to the October 2000 passage of a federal provision mandating states to enact .08 per se laws by 2004 or otherwise begin losing federal highway construction funds.

To write this legislative history, project staff studied the legislative and political process of six states that either recently lowered their illegal per se laws from .10 to .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or attempted unsuccessfully to enact .08 per se legislation in recent sessions. The following six states were selected for this project: Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Virginia (states that had passed .08 per se legislation), as well as Maryland and Minnesota (states that, at the time of this study, had been attempting to pass this legislation for several years).

The most important criterion for site selection was recent consideration of the legislation. States where .08 legislation was recently introduced logically yielded the most information because contact lists were more current, and project staff were able to locate a larger number of individuals 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, the site selection process took into account the intensity of the .08 debate in each state. Certain states where .08 per se laws passed in recent years were not selected because the legislation was achieved without much debate in the legislature; thus, these states might not have yielded as much information about obstacles and supporting strategies as other states where the debate was more complex.

In-depth discussions were conducted with a wide range of individuals involved in the political and legislative process at each site. In 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 Mothers Against Drunk Driving (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.

Participants in the .08 per se debate in the six states made the following observations to project staff: