Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 8, 2014

Andrew’s Law passes Va. Senate; faces House snags

RICHMOND, Va. — Supporters of “Andrew’s Law” won half the battle on Friday as all 40 senators voted for passage of the SB 293, a bill that would make reckless driving causing death or serious injury to a law enforcement officer, emergency medical services personnel, highway worker or firefighter engaged in his duties a Class 6 felony.

The family of the late Virginia State Trooper Andrew Fox who died as a result of injuries he received when a woman driving an SUV ran over him as he was directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair, contacted State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, and asked him to sponsor a bill that would address some of the concerns they experienced after the young trooper’s death. Fox, 27, a native of Tazewell, Va., was struck and killed on Oct. 5, 2012. The woman who ran over him pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge, received a suspended 12-month sentence and was fined $1,000.

“I was happy for the family of Trooper Fox that our bill was passed unanimously in the Senate,” Puckett said. “It will go to the House on Tuesday where it will be assigned to a committee.”

About a week after the start of the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, introduced the same bill in the house. It was assigned to the Committee for Courts of Justice on Jan. 14 — the day it was filed — and did not move from there.

Last week. Morefield told the Fox family that the House Appropriations committee told him they weren’t going to take up his bill, HB 1148. Morefield said his bill wasn’t the only bill that Appropriations did not plan to consider “Unfortunately, the Commonwealth simply does not have the funding available at this time,” he wrote in an email message to the press. “The Senate version of the bill may pass, but it will also be denied a hearing by the House Appropriations Committee.” Morefield said that he encouraged the Fox family to be persistent and said the bill may pass in the future when the state’s fiscal condition improves.

“I fully expect the bill to be heard in the House, and I told the Fox family that at least two of them would have the opportunity to speak before the first committee. I do think it will get a hearing,” Puckett said. “The Senate did a study on the bill and the impact is only about $50,000. It also doesn’t mean there is an automatic conviction. It just means that some of these cases might not end with a plea bargain and a misdemeanor.”

Puckett also sent a strong message to the legislators in the House. “It will be assigned to a committee, and if the members of that committee choose not to hear it, some of those members will likely have bills that will be assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, and I won’t hear them,” Puckett, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “I hate to have to do things like that, but this family deserves a fair hearing on the bill. My thought is that there are a lot of bills coming to the Agriculture Committee that won’t be heard.”

Puckett said the Fox family made very moving presentations before the Senate committees on transportation, on courts of justice and on finance. “All they are asking for is a fair hearing,” Puckett said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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