Senate Bill 289, by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana would make it illegal to drive if the driver's blood contains any trace of drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and painkillers. Medications that have been lawfully prescribed, excluding medicinal marijuana, would be exempted.
Supporters say the law is needed to protect motorists in light of what they say is an increase in driving under the influence of drugs. Critics, including several senators, raised questions at a Tuesday hearing about whether the bill goes too far by setting the tolerance level at zero.
"I wonder if you are, if this bill, as they say in constitutional law, is overly inclusive, that it captures people who may not be impaired but have some trace in their system. That's the question," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said during a hearing of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Those concerns led the committee to hold off on a vote on the bill, as Correa agreed to work to reach an agreement on language that was less broad. Because Friday is the deadline for bills that have a fiscal impact to clear policy committees in their house of origin, debate on the issue will likely be continued into the second year of the 2013-2014 legislative session.
"I would like to hold this bill in committee and I would like to work with you on this," said Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee."I think we want to zero in on impairment and levels and do this carefully and do it well. But I also agree we don't want people driving around with enough of any controlled substance in their system to make them a danger to themselves and others."
PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Lou Correa touts his "zero-tolerance" measure for driving under the influence of drugs at a news conference at the California Capitol on Feb. 19, 2013. Renee C. Byer / Sacramento Bee