By Sen. Tim Owens
No matter how the public might perceive the issue of DUI, it can be summed up as a public safety issue.
Approximately five years ago, it became apparent that the DUI program in Kansas was broken and needed to be fixed. The journey to Senate Bill 6, which passed with 100% of the vote in both houses of the Kansas Legislature in May of this year, began with a report done by the Substance Abuse Policy Board (SAPB). The SAPB was formed after it became apparent that too many people were driving on the roadways in Kansas with multiple DUIs on their record but had had little or no corrective or rehabilitative action taken to cause them to alter their behavior.
When the public became aware of such incidents as the one in Wichita where a mother and her daughter were killed by a driver who had had over a half-dozen DUI convictions and was still driving, pressure mounted on the legislature to take action. The SAPB report was scathing in its condemnation of the manner in which DUIs in Kansas were handled. In response, I was appointed as vice-chair of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee to chair a subcommittee to explore legislative measures to address the concerns of the SAPB.
Valuable information was received from a variety of disciplines that dealt in some manner with the DUI offenders. From those committee hearings came a decision three years ago to form a Blue Ribbon DUI Commission which was to do an extensive investigation into the problems and recommend potential solutions to improve public safety by reducing the numbers of DUI offenders on Kansas roadways. That task was accomplished with the recommendations that resulted in the passage of Senate Bill 6 in the 2011 session.
The major accomplishments in Senate Bill 6 were those that addressed some of the core needs for rehabilitating the weak DUI system in Kansas and are major accomplishments in their own right toward strengthening public safety. Two primary achievements of the new law, which went into effect July 1, 2011, are:
● Thanks in no small part to the Secretary Deb Miller of the Kansas Department of Transportation, coming to the financial rescue of the issues surrounding the implementation of a Central Repository through a Memorandum of Understanding with the KBI, that repository will be implemented. It will be the central resource that allows prosecutors and courts to have a clearer idea of how many DUI’s an individual offender may have so that appropriate prosecution and sentencing may ensue. It is the hope that through this program and the requirements of Senate Bill 6, there will be a uniform application of the law and sentencing across the state in every jurisdiction and in every court, whether District or Municipal.
● The new law addresses the issue of public safety by requiring all DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their own vehicle and no offender will be allowed to drive any vehicle that does not have an interlock devise installed.
It is the sincere hope of the DUI Commission and the Legislature that the changes brought about by Senate Bill 6 as a result of the extensive work done by the DUI Commission will put the State of Kansas back on the road to safer highways and a reduction in the number of DUI’s.
Tim Owens is the Kansas Senator for the 8th District