NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Curry Todd, who faces drunken driving and gun charges following an arrest last year, skipped a House vote Thursday on a bill to give judges the ability to compel blood tests for drivers who refuse to give breath alcohol tests when they are arrested.
The Collierville Republican voted in favor of two earlier bills seeking to tighten drunken driving laws, and was in attendance for most of the debate over the implied consent bill. But Todd left shortly before a vote on the bill that ultimately passed on a 52-33 — just two votes more than the minimum needed to clear the chamber.
Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville announced after the vote that Todd had been excused for an undisclosed illness.
Todd, a retired Memphis police officer, announced this week that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but that he was not yet experiencing any symptoms or undergoing treatment. He was the main architect of a state law allowing handgun carry permit holders to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
Todd was arrested on charges of drunken driving and carrying a loaded handgun while intoxicated when police stopped his vehicle in a Nashville neighborhood in October. He was also charged with violating Tennessee's implied consent law by refusing to submit to a breath-alcohol test. The case has been bound over to a grand jury.
Under state law, drivers who refuse to give breath alcohol tests lose their full driving privileges for one year.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Tony Shipley of Kingsport passed despite concerns raised by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that the bill would violate constitutional protections against self-incrimination.
"It concerns a lot of people when the government holds people down and takes bodily fluids out," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. "It's just something where we have to find where the line is when we draw it."
Eight Democrats joined 44 Republicans to pass the bill. The companion bill is expecting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.