Senator Cites His Own Experience : Torres Fails to Sell Assembly Panel on Alcohol, Drug Bill

Times Staff Writer

Sen. Art Torres, just a month after pleading no contest to a drunk-driving charge, failed to convince an Assembly committee Tuesday to pass a bill that would suspend the driver's licenses of youths convicted of alcohol- or drug-related offenses.

The Los Angeles Democrat, presently on probation, said his experience as a drunk driver has helped him better understand the problem of highway safety.

"It helped me grow in terms of dealing with this issue," Torres said of his June 19 arrest in Sacramento.

"I have made a mistake. Drinking and driving are a bad combination," Torres said.

Torres' bill would have suspended the licenses of drivers under the age of 21 who are convicted of drinking or drug-abuse offenses, even if the offender was not driving a car at the time. The senator said that strict measures are necessary to dissuade youths from abusing alcohol and drugs.

Opponents have argued that the measure would punish youths who might use alcohol or drugs, but who then refrain from driving under their influence.

The bill, which passed the Senate on June 23, stalled in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, receiving only two of the four votes needed to send it to the Assembly floor. Torres said he will reintroduce the bill in January.

The measure was last considered July 13, when Torres told the committee that irresponsible young drivers had created "an unreasonable death rate on the streets and highways of our state."

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