Senate acts on measures to provide safer communities, highways

Helping keep our local communities, neighborhoods, and families safe and secure is among my top concerns as a state senator. This past week I helped advance a number of initiatives that will help address public safety.

Several measures focused specifically on child safety. The bills approved by the senate would prevent felons from working in child day care programs, increase penalties for child endangerment, protect consumers by preventing unauthorized vendors from selling items like baby food, and help keep military families together by eliminating deployment as a barrier to child custody.

Senate bill 1472A would help ensure that young children are not being cared for by felons with a history of serious crimes. This measure would prohibit convicted criminals from working in child day care programs. Under this legislation, if a person has been convicted of a felony because of a sex offense, crime against a child, or crime involving violence, or a conviction for a felony drug-related offense within the past five years, they would be denied an operating license and employment at a child day care facility. The bill also removes the Office of Children and Family Services’ existing discretion to permit criminals to participate in child day care programs.

Senate bill 3362 would create a felony crime of endangering the welfare of a child. The bill makes it a class D violent felony offense, punishable up to seven years in prison, if a person has been previously charged with child endangerment. Under current law, the crime is a misdemeanor offense no matter how many times an individual has been charged with that crime in the past.

Senate bill 3297 would prevent a military member’s deployment or probability of deployment from being a detrimental factor when determining child custody if a suitable child care plan is presented. This is a necessary safeguard for our military personnel who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.

Senate bill 3840 would establish a new law to prevent roving vendors from selling baby food and other items, including nonprescription drugs, cosmetics, and batteries. This legislation would close a dangerous loophole and help protect children from items that could be easily compromised when exposed to sunlight and heat.

Several other measures focused on improving highway safety by holding drivers accountable for reckless and irresponsible actions. The legislation would increase or create new penalties for repeat DWI offenders, those who drive at high speeds, and individuals who cause a death while driving without a valid license.

Senate bill 4220 would require mandatory jail sentences for repeat DWI offenders. Under the proposed measure, drunk drivers would be required to serve a minimum of 30 days in jail for their second DWI conviction in 10 years, and a minimum of 90 days in jail if they are convicted of three or more DWI offenses within 10 years. In addition, drivers convicted of their second aggravated DWI in 10 years would face a mandatory 180-day sentence, and drivers convicted of three or more aggravated DWIs would be sentenced to jail for a minimum of one year. These sentences would be in addition to any other penalties imposed by the courts.

Senate bill 1600 would strengthen penalties against unlicensed drivers involved in car accidents resulting in someone’s death. The legislation would give prosecutors broader discretion to seek a prison term by making it a class E felony to negligently cause the death of another person while operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license.

Senate bill 3732 would take aim at high-speed vehicle fatalities by mandating harsher penalties for racing on our highways.

Senate bill 2976 would close a legal loophole that lets intoxicated supervising drivers escape punishment. “Abbagail’s Law” increases the penalties against individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol while also supervising drivers with junior licenses or learner’s permits.

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