“Annie’s Law” facing a deadline in the Ohio Senate

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The family of a drunk-driving victim is fighting the clock to get Ohio lawmakers to pass Annie’s Law.

On July 4th 2013, Ross County resident Annie Rooney was killed in a head-on crash by a woman with three drunken driving convictions.

Since then, her family has worked tirelessly to include more incentives in the law for judges and drivers to install ignition interlock devices for first-time drunk drivers’ vehicles.

It is up for a vote in the state Senate, but with only five committee hearing dates left and a handful of Senate session days, the law could die before a single vote is cast.

Something the Rooney family said they are committed to get done, to prevent more repeat drunk-driving deaths. “So we plead with the Senate, please do your duty, let us come to the finish line, let us start saving lives,” said Annie’s father Dr. Richard Rooney.

Lawmakers grappled over Annie’s Law in the Ohio House, but finally passed it by a wide majority in the spring.

“It is sort of unbearable to think that we could go through this last step and if it doesn’t work out, for the next two years 200 more people are going to die,” said Annie Rooney’s sister Kate Lyaker.

The law needs both committee and full Senate approval all before the session ends at the end of the year.

“The difficulty right now is just the process of whether we can have enough committee hearings to weigh the bill and get it through,” said Ohio Senator, Jay Hottinger, (R), who is the Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee.

The Rooney’s are visiting all the committee members on Tuesday and Wednesday talking about the importance of the law in saving lives. Their concern was palatable at a press conference they held at the Statehouse Tuesday morning.

“The impact and anguish the families are going through certainly weighs in,” said Hottinger.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has arrested more 22,000 OVI offenders so far in 2016. 28 states plus DC already have similar laws in place.

Annie’s Law was amended by the sponsor after the Ohio Judicial Conference had concerns that the law limits discretion for judges in sentencing first-time offenders.  The law now offers incentives to use an interlock. If the court grants a first-time offender unlimited driving privileges with an interlock, the court must suspend and jail time and may reduce the license suspension by up to half.

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