By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHMOND, Va. —
A bill created to turn reckless driving causing death or injury of certain persons into a felony is proceeding in the Virginia State Senate, but one supporter inspired by a family tragedy fears it could bog down in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Senate Bill 293, also known as House Bill 1148, is designed to protect law enforcement officers, emergency responders and state highway works whose jobs require them to work on or near highways.
The family of Virginia State Trooper Andrew Fox, who was struck and killed on Oct. 5, 2012, while he was directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair, has worked with State Senator Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, on the bill dubbed Andrew’s Law.
Fox, who was 27 when he died, was a native of Tazewell County. He worked for the Town of Tazewell Police Department before joining the Virginia State Police in 2006. Members of his family testified Monday before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. One change the committee made would give the bill more impact, said Fox’s sister, Lauren Fox.
“It was amended in the Courts of Justice Committee so it will be a class 5 felony, which is stricter, and also it’s going to apply now to emergency responders on the road and in their cars,” she said. “This was a very encouraging day. We did not expect it to get past this committee. In the beginning of the meeting, they were questioning it, and it did not look like they were supporters of it; but the testimony was moving, and I think that’s what made a difference today.”
Andrew Fox’s mother, Julie Fox, testified, and then his father, David Fox, read a letter written by Andrew’s wife, Virginia Martin Fox, to the committee. Members of the Virginia State Police Association, the Virginia Firefighters Association, and other organizations also testified.
“We are very encouraged that it will pass the senate, but we’re very worried about its progress in the House,” Lauren Fox said. “We’ve been told it’s in the Appropriations Committee, and they are looking at 50 bills. They’re only going to take three to five bills. And it does not look good for our bill, so we need people to write and call members of the House Appropriations Committee and tell them House Bill 1148 deserves a chance to be heard.”
The House Appropriations Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates determines whether bills will proceed in the House, she said.
“They have the power to kill the bill, and we’re told it’s very likely they will do that,” Lauren Fox said. “We need support. We need a big push, and we need people to fight for this more than they did in the Senate.”
The House Appropriations Committee can be reached at 804-698-1590. The mailing address is P.O. Box 406, General Assembly Building, Richmond, VA, 23218.