State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Hit-and-run bills, out of time

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 16, 2012 7:42 PM

A crush of proposals are speeding through the state House and Senate this week, in the final days of the legislative session. But two measures to toughen hit-and-run penalties that failed to make it through.

Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), said his bill is a response to protests that the punishment for a driver who hits someone and leaves the scene is too low.

A similar bill to increase hit-and-run penalties was signed by the governor in July.

It increased the maximum prison sentences for hit-and-run drivers, but not the mandatory minimums Stack hopes to change.

“This bill increases from one year to three years the mandatory minimum of hit-and-run accidents resulting in death, and it creates a one-year minimum of accidents resulting in bodily injury,” Stack said to the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday. His measure received the panel’s approval – just not in time to get a final vote from the full Senate. Committee Chairman John Rafferty said the vote would show the committee was “sympathetic” to those clamoring for stiffer penalties for hit-and-run offenses.

Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) sponsored a similar bill that also failed to make it to the full chamber in time. But he said Tuesday he doesn’t think he’ll have to start from scratch to advance his measure next year.

“We have a chairman that sat through a hearing and understands what the needs are not only in the city of Philadelphia but also across the state to enhance these penalties,” he said.

Both bills will die with the end of the legislative session this year.

It’s not unusual. The measure that went to the governor in July to increase hit-and-run penalties was a result of about seven years of legislative toiling.

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