A veteran state lawmaker said Wednesday she was blind-sided by Gov. Janet Napolitano who vetoed her drunken-driving legislation without warning.
But aides to the governor said that just isn't so.
At a news conference at the Capitol, Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said neither Napolitano nor any of her aides told her that a provision in the bill altering state laws on the use of ignition interlocks would result in the governor using her veto power to kill the entire measure.
Gray said it was only when the governor sent her veto message that she knew there was a problem.
Even with what she knows now, though, Gray said she does not know whether she will recraft the measure. The senator said she still believes the change is appropriate.
Gray packed a series of changes in driving under the influence laws into a single bill. Its contents included everything from technical fixes and closing loopholes to stiffer penalties for those who operate boats while intoxicated.
It also contained a partial repeal of a measure approved just last year that says those convicted of even a single drunken-driving offense are permitted to operate only vehicles with ignition interlocks for a full year after their driving privileges have been reinstated. These devices prevent a vehicle from starting if a breath sample shows the motorist has been drinking.
Instead, the legislation said that interlock use can be reduced to six months if the person completes drug or alcohol education or treatment programs.
Napolitano said Wednesday altering the law less than a year after it took effect was "premature." Gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer acknowledged the word "veto" was never used in conversations that policy adviser Suzie Barr had with Gray. But L'Ecuyer said the message Barr delivered was clear.
"She suggested to her that this bill had a better shot if that provision came out of it," L'Ecuyer said.
Gray has a slightly different recollection of the conversation.
"What I heard from Suzie Barr was, 'Well, the governor doesn't really like that portion,' " Gray said.
"There was never a comment 'The governor will veto this if you put it in,' " Gray continued. "It would have been nice to know that."
One thing appears clear, though: Without the change in the interlock requirement, Napolitano was virtually certain to have signed the bill. L'Ecuyer said the governor thought the other parts of the measure were good.
That leaves only the question of what Gray does now.
Gray said while she wants the other parts of the bill, she won't commit to resubmitting the measure to Napolitano, this time without altering the interlock law. The reason, she said, is she still believes the six-month requirement is sufficient if accompanied by treatment.
She said an interlock requirement is effective only if the person drives only that vehicle. Gray said those who want to drink and drive can still use another vehicle that doesn't have an interlock.
"If you go to the point where you can actually change their behavior, then you don't need the interlock," she said.
That is also the contention of Brigitte Targosz, widow of Gilbert police officer Rob Targosz, who was killed two years ago by a drunken driver. Targosz said the reduced interlock requirement would apply only to first-time offenders.
"And they would have to earn that," she said, referring to the treatment requirement.
Gray said one option would be to try to override Napolitano's veto. But it has been 27 years since lawmakers have marshaled the necessary two-thirds margin to do that.