COLUMBIA (WACH) -- A unanimous vote by House lawmakers sends Emmaâ??s Law one step closer to becoming a new state law.
A room full of supporters of the proposed measure watched as lawmakers engaged in a heated debate over a possible amendment to bill.
In the end the committee voted to have the law move forward as is.
Next up for Emma's Law is a reading on the house floor.
David Longstreet the father of 6 year-old Emma who the bill is named after said the bill could be introduced as early as Thursday and expects lawmakers to start debating the measure by the begining of April.Emmaâ??s Law is named after Emma Longstreet, a six-year-old Lexington girl who was killed by Billy Hutto, a repeat DUI offender on New Yearâ??s Day in 2012. "I heard him tell the judge that day that if he would've had an interlocking device in his car, that he wouldn't have been able to start his car," said Longstreet. Since his daughter's death, David Longstreet has worked tirelessly to have state lawmakers toughen DUI laws in South Carolina. Last week, Longstreet was joined by a room full of supporters ; Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins. Jenkins joining after his family learned firsthand how serious the repeat DUI offender problem is in South Carolina. His 3-year-old grandnephew, Josiah Jenkins, was killed in a car crash . According to a criminal background check, the man South Carolina Highway Patrol say is responsible for Jenkins death, Lonnie Gross III, has been arrested more than 5 times for DUI. He currently remains in Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, awaiting trial. "I'm sworn to protect people. That's my job. But I felt so helpless that I couldn't do a thing for Josiah," said Columbia Police Aubrey Jenkins. According to MADD Ignition interlocks result in substantial reductions in drinking and driving deaths. MADD says South Carolina saw DUI deaths increase 16% from 2011 to 2012 (from 309 deaths to 358). Their report shows that requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers is the best way to protect the public from drunk drivers. Longstreet feels if this law was in effect before that tragic day, he would still have his daughter by his side. For information on interlock laws, please visit: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/ignition-interlocks/status-of-state-ignition.html.