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Gov. Inslee supports lowering legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers, open to reforming pursuit law

Gov. Jay Inslee is optimistic legislators will support his 'bold' $4 billion housing plan.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is open to lowering the state’s threshold for determining when a driver is considered drunk.

The proposal to lower the blood-alcohol level from .08 to .05 is expected to come up for debate in Olympia this legislative session.

“I’m inclined to move in that direction,” said Inslee, D-Washington, though he said he has not looked at it “in detail.”

The bill text states 2021 was the deadliest year on Washington roads since 2006, with 540 fatal crashes that resulted in the death of more than 600 people. Half, according to the bill text, were caused by an impaired driver.

According to state's Traffic Safety Commission, deaths on Washington's roads reached a 20-year high in 2021, with 663 fatalities. Preliminary data for 2022 shows the trend in fatalities on the road are expected to continue to rise.

The authors of the bill cite the effort in Utah to reduce crashes by lowering the blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05 in 2019, resulting in fatal crashes reducing by nearly 20%.

Changes to police reform laws

Meanwhile, law enforcement is calling for pursuits to be allowed in cases of car theft.

Inslee has said he is open to changing some of the recently passed police reform bills.

“If the legislature wants to go on that, I’d be acceptable for that change," Inslee said.

Some in law enforcement have argued that since House Bill 1054 went into effect, criminals have become emboldened because they feel they can’t be chased, leading to unsolved crimes. Under the law, officers need probable cause a violent or sexual crime had been committed. 

Additional proposals, future plans

Inslee said he is getting positive feedback on his proposal to borrow $4 billion to construct low-income and affordable housing. Borrowing that amount, which is above the state’s debt limit, requires legislative and voter approval.

Inslee said the move would help alleviate the state’s housing shortage and the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s not going to get better unless we take bold action,” said Inslee.

In a wide-ranging interview Thursday, Inslee said he has no plans on lifting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees, does not plan on supporting any move to a pay-by-mile system for funding state roads this session, and said he has not “given serious consideration” to whether he will run for a fourth term in 2024, or pursue a presidential election again.

“You can fully, with confidence, accept that I’ll make the right decision at the right time, but this is not the right time to be thinking about that,” said Inslee.

Watch: Extended interview with Gov. Inslee

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