Tennessee's Special Session To Fix Error In DUI Law Has Few Historic Parallels | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee's Special Session To Fix Error In DUI Law Has Few Historic Parallels

Sep 6, 2016

Despite more than three decades in the legislature, state Sen. Randy McNally has seen few special sessions like the one that'll take place next week.

"It's very unusual," he says. "It's also very unusual that there is a supposed partnership between the state and the federal government, but they get to write all the rules and then they get to interpret all their rules."

In fact, you might have to go all the way back to the 1960s to find similar circumstances. That's when a Supreme Court ruling forced Tennessee to draw up new legislative districts.

Fixing a $60 million error in the state's drunken driving laws is going to cost Tennessee at least $75,000. That's the estimate on next week's special session.

It's a step with few historical parallels. 

McNally says federal authorities should have been more flexible. Instead, they're demanding Tennessee align the state's blood alcohol content limit for 18-year-olds to 21-year-olds with federal standards. They've given state lawmakers a deadline of Oct. 1, the start of the federal government's fiscal year.

The special session will start Monday afternoon, and the bill should pass easily. But the state Constitution requires legislators to deliberate any new law for at least three days, making Wednesday the earliest lawmakers could adjourn.

The session will cost taxpayers about $25,000 a day. That's mainly for per diems — the daily payments lawmakers get to cover expenses while they're doing the people's business.

Democrats say it's an expense that could've been avoided. Republicans agree, but they say the blame rests as much with federal authorities as with themselves.