Legislating Under The Influence: Bar and Restaurant Group Opposes Drunk Driving Measure in Congress

There is an interesting story out of Washington where a powerful industry group is lobbying to kill legislation. Nothing new there. Lobbyists routinely kill bills in Congress and write other bills. However, this effort has raised a few eyebrows because the American Beverage Institute is opposing a drunk driving measure in the House Transportation bill — a measure calling for states to require in-car Breathalyzers for people convicted of drunk driving. So far, however, to the chagrin of the ABI, Congress has refused to yield to demands to eliminate the provision.

There are many good-faith reasons for such measures to be criticized, including the encroachment of federal authority on state rights. For many years, there have been objections over the practice of Congress collecting taxes with the sole purposes of returning the money to the states with federal mandates or conditions. The Supreme Court has upheld the practice while preserving a very limited (and unused) exception in extreme cases. I have previously testified against the expansion of these federal bills with conditional funds. The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act contains $493 million for federal highway safety grants.

However, this law does not deny highway or transportation funds to states unwilling to pass the laws. It simply offers $25 million per year to states that require the devices to be installed for anyone convicted of driving under the influence — even first-time offenders.

This should be the last group to be arguing against drunk driving provisions. The group representing more than 8,000 U.S. restaurants insists that these laws do not distinguish between cases of high and low alcohol levels. As such, they argue, the law denies judges to make tailored sentences.

Fifteen states require all convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks and studies show a sharp decline in drunk driving deaths, with Oregon and Arizona experiencing a fall of 52 and 51 percent, respectively. I am not sure of the cause and effect but it would seem that such laws would have an obvious impact on drunk driving. I actually do favor giving judges more discretion in such matters. However, the ABI shows little judgment in ignoring its obvious conflict of interest in such matters while publicly campaigning against the measures. It leaves the impression of bars and restaurants working to ensure that drunk drivers will be able to return to their establishments. The optics are perfectly horrible and it is hard to see why these 8000 businesses pay to create such a public relations disaster.

Yet, the ABI has previously fought these measures despite the bad press. Like many industry groups, there is little fear that customers will blame individual members for the actions of their lobbyists or think tanks — particularly when there are over 8000 of them.

Source: Fox News

22 thoughts on “Legislating Under The Influence: Bar and Restaurant Group Opposes Drunk Driving Measure in Congress”

  1. Blouise,

    Was she ever employed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation; i.e. the birth place of the right wing conspiracy?

  2. If they wanted to advance safety, rather than teetotaler doctrine, they would mandate a device that checks for texting and similar devices that cause far more highway accidents than DWI … oops … forgot … facts don’t matter.

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