Haslam calls for ‘extraordinary’ session on $60M in highway funds

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Haslam said Friday he is calling an “extraordinary session” to address the looming issue of losing millions in federal funding.

The state stands to lose $60 million after it passed a law making changes to DUI laws they later learned violated federal funding rules.

The measure changed the DUI blood alcohol content maximum for 18 to 20 year olds from 0.02 to 0.08 percent.

However, federal rules require states to set the blood alcohol content for that age group to 0.02 or lose some federal funding.

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notified the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) that the new law puts the state out of compliance with a federal “zero tolerance” drunk driving statute.

The NHTSA indicated Tennessee would permanently lose $60 million if it remained out of compliance.

State leaders asked for flexibility in the matter, vowing legislators would change the law in the 2017 legislative session.

On Wednesday, the state was notified that the funding would be lost if the change is not made before Oct. 1.

“We are disappointed in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision. The state made clear to federal officials that while it disagrees with the interpretation that Tennessee is out of compliance, any such perceived impact of the law was inadvertent and could be fixed in January 2017,” Haslam said.

“To avoid any negative impact to the state, I will ask the General Assembly to convene in a special session and clarify state law in this matter,” he continued.

Some legislators say there are other issues to tackle while they’re all in town.

Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) would also like to pass Gov. Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan and expel embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin).

“I’ve called for special sessions to pass Insure Tennessee, the governor’s plan, and to expel Rep. Durham based on the attorney general’s report,” Stewart told News 2. “I would do both of those things back in special session.”

A special session costs the state about $25,000 each day in travel and per diem costs.

The exact date of the proposed special session has not yet been determined.

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