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April 9, 2014

Emma’s Law to curb drunken drivers headed to SC Gov. Haley’s desk

The state Senate unanimously passed the House’s version of the law Wednesday, requiring alcohol breath-testing devices be installed in the vehicles of some offenders who are convicted of drunken driving for the first time.

Emma’s Law is headed to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk.

The state Senate unanimously passed the House’s version of the law Wednesday, requiring alcohol breath-testing devices be installed in the vehicles of some offenders who are convicted of drunken driving for the first time.

State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, the bill’s main sponsor, said he was happy to see the measure go to the governor. But he added he was saddened to remember those lost in drunken-driving tragedies, including the bill’s inspiration – Emma Longstreet, a 6-year-old Lexington girl killed in 2012 by a repeat drunken-driving offender.

“I would have rather had her here,” said Emma’s mother, Karen Longstreet, who sat in the Senate gallery during Wednesday’s vote.

Longstreet said her daughter had wanted to be a veterinarian and save the lives of animals.

Now, her legacy will save people’s lives, she said.

An upsurge of support from local business owners and families helped revive the bill in the House, which made several amendments to a version of the bill passed previously by the Senate. One revision raised the blood-alcohol level to require use of the ignition-interlock device – to 0.15 percent from 0.12 percent – for drivers pleading guilty to or convicted of a first offense of drunken driving.

Haley will sign the law, her spokesman said.

“The governor congratulates Mr. and Mrs. Longstreet on passing this legislation and honoring Emma’s memory in a way that will protect South Carolina families for generations to come,” spokesman Doug Mayer said. “It took an awful lot of hard work and Governor Haley will proudly sign this bill.”

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