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The Maryland Senate on Monday overwhelmingly approved Noah's Law, which expands the use of ignition interlocks for drunk drivers.

The 45-0 vote came without debate. The House of Delegates passed a different version of the bill earlier this month, likely setting up a conference committee that will work out the differences.

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The House had initially watered down its version of the bill so it applied to fewer drivers, but then restored most of the provisions of the bill before its final vote. Advocates consider the Senate's version to be stronger.

Ignition interlocks require a driver to blow into them before driving. The car won't start if the driver has been drinking. Under current law, ignition interlocks are required for convicted drunk drivers in certain circumstances, mainly for drivers with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or greater.

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The bill is named for Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was fatally injured in December by a suspected drunk driver while conducting a traffic stop on another drunk driver. Though advocates had been pushing for expanded use of interlocks for years, the bill picked up momentum this year behind Leotta's story.

Leotta's father, Rich Leotta, watched the Senate vote from the observation gallery and was greeted with a standing ovation from senators when he was introduced afterward.

Leotta said he's gratified that bills have passed both chambers, but he said he and other advocates will keep a close eye on the conference committee to make sure a strong version of the bill is sent to Gov. Larry Hogan's desk. The governor has indicated he is in favor of the bill.

"I'm hopeful, but I'm not going to be able to rest until it gets done," Leotta said.

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Leotta said if the bill becomes law, then it will be as if his son's policing mission continues.

"Every time an interlock goes on a car, it would be Noah on patrol," he said.

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