Stricter penalties for drunk drivers could be just one vote away from reality in the South Carolina State House.
Emma's Law, named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed in a car crash in 2012, passed a second reading in the House of Representatives a short time ago.
The vote was unanimous -- 112 to 0 to move forward on the bill.
Supporters of the law gathered in front of the State House to demand a vote on the bill this afternoon. Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland) and Emma's father, David Longstreet, say the bill needed to be passed as it reads currently or else it may not make it to a vote this session.
The bill cracks down on first time DUI offenders if they have a blood alcohol content above .15 at the time of their arrest. Those first time offenders get an ignition interlock installed in their car for six months.
There have been other amendments proposed to make the law stricter, but legislators say it needs to become a law as it stands.
"That is the message," said Lourie. "Beat back amendments, pass the bill. Beat back amendments, pass Emma's law. Beat back amendments, that is our message today."
But at this point, the Longstreets say it's all or nothing now because if a legislator tries to amend the bill now, it could kill it entirely.
We're approaching the end of the legislative session for the year and the bill has already gotten stalled before because of other amendments put forth to make the bill stricter like a recent push by Rep. Todd Rutherford to lower blood alcohol levels in the bill from .15 to .12 for first offenders.
But each time the bill's amended, it has to go back to square one, including another three readings in the House.
At this point, if an amendment's proposed during the bill's third reading, it would have to wait until the next legislative session.
"It takes a lot of work and a lot of change," said Longstreet. "It'll have to go back to the subcommittee and would essentially kill the bill without saying kill the bill."
The third reading for the bill could be as soon as Thursday. If it passes the House as it stands, it will have to go back to the Senate for final approval.
If the Senate approves, it could be on Gov. Nikki Haley's desk next week.
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