CL – Bill on passing school bus dies, new fight between Dems and Republicans

A bill intended to strengthen the penalties for passing a stopped school bus has died, setting off a political fight between some House Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Senate Bill 2505 would have created a newly defined felony for injuring a child while passing a school bus and increased penalties for drivers who pass buses.

The bill – dubbed “Nathan’s Law” after a Jones County 5-year-old who died after being struck Dec. 11 while getting off a school bus – died Saturday after House and Senate negotiators could not reach a compromise.

The bill’s author, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, has accused Rep. Ed Blackmon, a Canton Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary A Committee, of “playing games” with the bill.

“He simply wasn’t negotiating in good faith,” McDaniel said. “It seems partisan to me.”

The bill would have created a five-year penalty for drivers who pass a bus and hit a child.

Blackmon, an attorney who has chaired one of the two Judiciary committees for the past 19 years, said he was “puzzled by the bill’s purpose and intent” because drivers could be charged with aggravated assault and get 20 years in those cases.

“I don’t understand why you would want someone to serve only five years in jail if they hurt a child,” he said.

Clarion-Ledger
3/29/10