By MELINDA WILLIAMS
“Andrew’s Law,” named in honor of late State Trooper Andrew Fox, unanimously cleared the Virginia Senate, but the ultimate fate of the legislation rests with the House of Delegates, which recently let similar legislation die in committee.
Sen. Phillip Puckett (D-38th District), who sponsored Senate Bill 293 (SB293), said Wednesday the House Courts of Justice Committee has agreed to hold a hearing on his bill Monday. That’s the same committee that took no action on HB1148 due to funding issues.
Puckett said he is “very pleased with the cooperation of the House,” calling it “the respectful thing to do for (Fox’s) family.”
Family members of the late trooper will be present to speak on behalf of the legislation, which would make reckless driving a Class 5 felony in Virginia if emergency medical services personnel, firefighters, government employees or contractors and law enforcement officers are struck and killed or sustain “significant physical impairment” while in performance of their duties.
Fox, who was based out of the Dublin field office, was struck by a vehicle and killed while directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair in October 2012. The driver who struck and killed him was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving. She was fined $1,000 and given a suspended 12-month jail sentence.
If “Andrew’s Law” passes, those convicted could receive up to 12 months in jail or up to 10 years in prison. There would be a mandatory $2,500 fine, their driving privileges would be suspended for a year, and the court could impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch Monday that HB1148 wasn’t heard due to a lack of funding for the measure. “When you pass a criminal law bill, you have to fund the prison space. We thought there were other bills that had more impact than this,” Albo told the Times-Dispatch.
Puckett says the legislation would have minimal impact, but he told the Richmond newspaper he would understand if his bill is rejected on that basis.
According to a bill impact statement, the legislation could result in an increase in jail or prison sentences. Since the financial impact of an unknown number of additional inmates cannot be determined, the minimum impact amount of $50,000 annually was assigned to the legislation.
Fox’s sister, Lauren, called the fiscal concerns “ridiculous,” according to the Times-Dispatch report. She added, “That feels like a slap. Look at all the emergency responders who serve the commonwealth every day. When you want to do something, you find the money to do it.”