Lawmaker Resigns Leadership Post After Open Container Citation

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – State Sen. Jim Shockley resigned Thursday as Judiciary Committee chairman after he was cited for driving with an open beer in his vehicle, but says he will continue his run for state attorney general.

The Republican from Victor told The Associated Press he will not let the incident derail his plans to run for higher office in 2012. But, he added, he broke the law and it is not possible to continue running the Senate Judiciary Committee when its focus is cracking down on drunken driving.

“Considering the emphasis of this committee has been DUI — it wasn’t a DUI but it was related — I think it appropriate I step down as chairman of this committee,” Shockley said.

Shockley then presented one of several bills he is sponsoring this session cracking down on DUI. The first of his four bills on the docket Thursday would let game wardens issue tickets to minors in possession of alcohol.

Shockley told the AP before the meeting started that he hopes the episode does not hurt his effort to advance the bills.

Shockley, 66, will serve as vice chairman of the committee. Republican Sen. Terry Murphy of Cardwell took over as chairman right after the announcement.

Senate President Jim Peterson thanked Shockley for stepping down.

Missoula police said Shockley was pulled over in town Friday after an off-duty officer called in to report seeing him drink and drive on Interstate 90. Shockley says he was driving home from Helena when he stopped to buy a beer, his second.

Police said Shockley passed the field test for DUI. The state senator said he registered a .03 percent twice on a breathalyzer, a number Missoula police said they could not confirm.

A great deal of emphasis is being placed on efforts to reform a drinking and driving culture in Montana that many believe is far too lax and leads to some of the nation’s deadliest highways. Several high profile deaths in recent years have helped put a big spotlight on the issue.

Current Attorney General Steve Bullock has made the issue a top priority.

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