Some good news out of the Legislature — UNANIMOUS passage of ‘Emma’s Law’


It took an unspeakable tragedy involving a particularly sympathetic victim, and a huge public lobbying effort, but on Wednesday the House acted unanimously to pass “Emma’s Law,” which requires people found to have driven with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or more to blow into an ignition interlock device in order to start a car in the future.

(A small quibble from a crusty old editor: I had to skim down to the 19th paragraph of the news story this morning to be reminded what the law does. I suppose that’s a testament to how compelling the human-interest angle is, but still. That was kind of key. Sorry, John, but I had to say something.)

For those of us who get weary of the Legislature’s fecklessness when it comes to getting commonsense legislation passed, this should be gratifying. The public will was clear, and for once the usual excuses not to act fell away. It would be wonderful to see more such action on other things South Carolina needs.

Wouldn’t it be great to see other no-brainer legislation — such as Medicaid expansion, which would have cost SC nothing for three years, and only 10 percent of the total cost thereafter — pass this way, without all the partisan nonsense stopping it dead? Think of all the Emmas who would have received potentially life-saving healthcare — a measure that would come in time, rather than far too late.

But if you’re against Medicaid expansion, I’m sure you can think of other things that should pass this easily, but don’t. You know I have a list; many of you do, too.

That said, let’s celebrate this victory for good sense and public safety stewardship. Let’s celebrate the victory we have.

13 thoughts on “Some good news out of the Legislature — UNANIMOUS passage of ‘Emma’s Law’

  1. Mark Stewart

    124 Representatives in the House. 4 were excused from this vote. 8 chose not to vote.

    They are:

    Bernstein, Beth E.
    Brown, Robert L.
    Hart, Christopher R.
    Kennedy, Ralph Shealy, Jr.
    Limehouse, Harry B., III
    Mitchell, Harold, Jr.
    Rutherford, J. Todd
    Sellers, Bakari T.

    Not surprisingly 5 are defense attorneys. I wonder what other reason(s) kept these 8 from voting?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know, and frankly don’t much care. When people who would be obstacles to sensible legislation simply step out of the way, that’s a very good thing in South Carolina. Because usually, they are able to stop progress dead in its tracks…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And then, as soon as I had typed “don’t much care,” I thought, Oh, what the hell; I’ll ask. I put in a call to the first on the list, Beth Bernstein. If she gets back to me, I’ll let you know what she says…

        1. Rose

          I read that Rutherford was planning to introduce amendments but was called away to court during the floor discussion. That was fortuitous, especially since the bill had already been changed to raise the alcohol level from .12 to .15, which is twice the legal limit. I’m delighted it passed – especially since I drove by the accident scene on my way to church that morning – but there are a lot of people killed by drunk drivers whose blood alcohol is below . 15.

          1. Barry

            Can’t imagine Rutherford being for Emma’s law unless the limit was raised to .40 or something along those lines.

            Defense attorneys typically like making it very hard to keep drunk drivers off the road.

      2. Mark Stewart

        That’s true. But we are talking about only requiring a six month ignition lock for someone convicted of driving with a 0.15(!) alcohol level.

        This is once again a minimally adequate achievement. And one which I read has to reappear in the Senate – never a good thing for justice.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, but even the Senate, with it’s richly deserved reputation for obstructionism, will have to think twice about getting in the way of something with this kind of momentum. He said, hoping he was right…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, Beth Bernstein just called me back, and she did not abstain. She had fully intended to vote, and was very much in favor of the bill.

    However, she was attending Shep Cutler’s funeral at Beth Shalom Synagogue. It started at 3, and she was unable to get back to the State House in time for the vote….

  3. Beth Bernstein


    Yes. I missed the vote because I was attending Shep Cutler’s funeral and wasn’t able to get back to the State House in time to cast my vote. The Voting Roll Call also is inaccurate due to a glitch in the system and is being corrected to reflect that I indeed was excused. My brother was killed by a drunk driver repeat offender in 1981 so I fully supported this bill and was ecstatic when it was passed by unanimous consent. Thank you for following up with me.


    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Pebble-shoe wearers probably are fine without the device, but as we get up into serious gravel, yes.

  4. bud

    No one has more passion for highway safety issues than I do. And the passage of Emma’s law is a nice step in the right direction. But the sobering reality is this legislation is only a small step in the fight against the drunk-driving holocaust that plagues our state and nation. Let’s celebrate this important step but let’s not become complacent that this will solve the huge problem that kills far more South Carolinians that all wars combined. Hopefully this is the next step in the slippery slope to a truly alcohol-free motoring environment. That is one of my fondest dreams.

Comments are closed.