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June 04. 2014 8:19PM

Limited license after first-time DWI bill now goes to governor

CONCORD — First-time drunk driving offenders will be allowed to drive to and from work, school or for medical care under a bill the House and Senate approved Wednesday.

House Bill 496 was one of about 60 bills that House and Senate negotiators agreed on last week that representatives and senators approved before going home.

Offenders can apply for the program 45 days or more after their license is suspended. The limited license would allow him or her to drive to work and back, to look for work, to attend substance abuse treatment, to receive medical treatment or to attend school, and for medical emergencies for family members.

The program would begin Jan. 1, 2016.

To participate, a driver would have to pay for an enhanced ignition interlock device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the person has alcohol on his or her breath.

The House passed the conference report on a 310-28 vote, while the Senate passed it on a voice vote.

Like all other conference committee reports approved by lawmakers Wednesday, the bill goes to the governor.

Highway Plan

The House and Senate approved the state’s $3 billion 10-year highway improvement plan containing three key projects for the state: the Interstate 93 expansion between Salem and Manchester, rebuilding the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge in Portsmouth and expanding a section of Route 101 in Bedford.

House Bill 2014 is intended to work with a 4.2-cent gas tax increase signed into law last month by Gov. Maggie Hassan. It’s the first increase in the gas tax in New Hampshire since 1991.

The $15.6 million project to widen Route 101 for two miles from Route 114 and Boynton Street intersection has been a top priority for the area. but until this year has not been a priority in the 10-year plan.

State highway officials said that section of Route 101 has been the scene of more than 500 accidents in the last 10 years.

Under the 10-year plan, half of the $32 million generated by the gas tax increase beginning July 1 would be used beginning in 2017 to repay $200 million in bonds to complete the I-93 expansion from Salem to Manchester.

Without the additional money, work would have stopped on the project in late 2016 and the state may have had to renew environmental permits.

The plan also addresses replacing the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, the state’s No. 1 red-listed bridge. The bridge needs to be replaced and the shipping lane widened to accommodate the next generation of freight tankers carrying oil, propane, salt and other products into Portsmouth Harbor.

The House approved the bill on a 285-34 vote, while the Senate approved it on a voice vote.

Pets domestic violence

Lawmakers approved a bill that will allow judges to include household animals under domestic violence protection laws.

Supporters say family pets are often on the front lines of domestic violence as one spouse uses the animals as bargaining chips.

Domestic violence experts say family pets are sometimes abused or killed.

A judge could grant custody of pets or farm animals to the victim and can bar the perpetrator from harming or disposing of the animals.

The bill allows a judge to include the animals and pets in both stalking and domestic violence orders.


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