New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 18, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
10A Q Herald-Zeitung Q Thursday December 18,1997Perry pushes tougher DWI laws; Sharp agrees
AUSTIN (AP) — Rick Perry, GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, Wednesday called for much tougher laws to punish drunken drivers — including a lower legal blood-alochol level, mandatory jail time and seizure of the drunk’s car on a third conviction.
His likely Democratic opponent, John Sharp, said he’s favored tougher DWI laws for years.
“I’m glad that Rick Percy has now decided to join the efforts I led as a legislator in fighting drunk driving,’’ Sharp said.
Perry, currently the state agriculture commissioner, said Texas has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in drunken driving deaths.
“I intend to fight this killer, not just during holiday weekends but 365 days a year,’’ he vowed.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Texas Senate.
Calling for “punishment the First time and every time,’’ Perry said that if elected, he would push a plan through the Legislature to severely punish any drunken driving conviction, with even harsher penalties for second and third offenses
He called for lowering the state’s legal blood-alcohol level from 0. IO to 0 08. A bill to do that was killed on a parliamentary maneuver in the Senate this year, but Perry said he thinks lawmakers will recognize the public's get-tough demand.
Under his proposal, a first conviction would bring a minimum three-day jail sentence and suspension of a driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days as a condition of probation Occupational licenses, allowing driving to and from work, no longer would be issued
A second conviction would bring a minimum of 30 days in jail, no probation, a six-month driver’s license suspension and confiscation of the vehicle’s license plates for six months
A third conviction would mean 180 days in jail, a one-year license suspension and state seizure and sale
Environmental protectionists want more mercury warnings
AUSTIN (AP) — Only six of the stale’s more than HCH) public lakes and reservoirs have warnings or bans against eating fish or seafood from them because of mercury pollution. Hut environmental groups say that doesn’t indicate a clean bill of health tor Texas waters
In advance of a national report to be issued this week, the Sierra C lub, Pub!ic Citizen. Texas t lean Water Action and the Sustainable f-nergy and Economic Development Coalition on W ednesday released a report about mercury pollution in Texas lakes
The groups said the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission needs to put tighter limits on mercury emissions from power plants, municipal and medial waste incinerators, landfills and cement manufacturers.
It also said the Texas Health Department needs to more quickly warn Texans about mercury pollution levels.
Mike Ordner, survey branch chief for the TDH’s seafood safety division, said the agency considers the amount of pollution, rates of consumption and other factors before determining whether to issue a consumption warning or ban
Exposure to mercury comes primarily through food It can cause neurological and reproductive damage and can impair brain development in fetuses and children Possessing or eating fish and other seafood with unsafe levels of mercury is banned only from the upper part of Lavaca Bay in southeast Texas.
Consumption of various fish from waters in the B A. Steinhagen, Sam Rayburn, and Toldeo Bend Reservoirs; and Big Cypress Creek and Caddo Lake is restricted because of mercury levels.
John Villanacci, director of health risk assessment at the TDH, said the federal Food and Drug Administration allows up to LO part per million mercury in fish before it should not be eaten.
The EPA has a lower standard at which it believes there may be a health risk.
Villanacci said the Texas standard is around 0.7 parts per million. But he added that if consumption patterns or pollution levels warrant it, warnings and advisories can be posted at lower levels.
of the vehicle the drunk was driving.
“The level of these senseless acts has reached a level of staggering proportions,’’ Perry said.
“These tough new penalties that I’m advocating today are a thoughtful, and I think compassionate answer to not only the victims of these crimes but to the offenders, who we want to think long and hard about getting into a car after consuming alcohol.’’
Sharp, currently the state
comptroller, said he has supported tougher DWI laws since his days in the Legislature.
Sharp said he coauthored legislation in 1983 that .was “the toughest anti-DWl bill ever introduced.’’
Recalling that his wife’s parked car was hit by a drunken driver traveling nearly 50 mph, Sharp called for a constitutional amendment to deny bail to anyone arrested on a felony drunken driving charge.
“These people have proven they are a menace to society and should be locked up, not driving while awaiting trial,’* he said.
In other developments:
— Republicans Barry Williamson, a Railroad Commission member, and Tom Pauken, former state GOP chairman, both officially entered their party’s primary for attorney general. Also running in the March primary will be John Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.
Several Democrats are said to be considering the race now that incumbent Dan Morales has decided to retire.
— Harriet O’Neill of Houston, a judge on the 14th Court of Appeals, filed for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Supreme Court Justice Rose Spector. Ms. O’Neill, 40, said she will run on her experience as a fair and impartial judge.
“It’s a judge’s function to uphold
the law as it is written and not try to legislate from the bench or to be an activist,’’ she told the Austin American-Statesman. “I have a proven record as a conservative jurist.’’
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