Extra Jolt: Vulnerable Users' Bill Passes House

By Afternoon Jolt March 3, 2011

The vulnerable users' bill, which increases penalties for drivers who kill or seriously injure cyclists, pedestrians, and other "vulnerable roadway users," passed out of the state house today 59-39, on largely partisan lines.

Five members broke with their party---Democrats Tami Green (D-28) and Christopher Hurst (D-31) voted against the bill, and Republicans Vincent Buys (R-32), Mike Hope (R-44) and Norma Smith (R-10) voted for it.

During floor debate on the legislation, opponents argued that it would unfairly punish drivers who killed or injured cyclists, imposing penalties that would ruin not only the life of the person killed or disabled, but the life of the person who caused the death or injury.

"There were a number of legislators who seemed to be more concerned for the perpetrators than the deceased," Cascade Bicycle Club lobbyist David Hiller said. "I find it hard to see how a $250 fine and 100 hours of community service would be compared to the devastation wrought on someone's person [by being hit by a car]."

The legislation now moves on to the senate judiciary committee, which is headed by the sponsor of the senate version of the legislation (which passed the senate last month), Sen. Adam Kline (D-37, S. Seattle). Assuming it gets a speedy hearing and passes out of judiciary, it will go to the senate floor---the last step before heading to the governor's desk.

Oh, and who's Jolt's winner here? Well, in addition to bikers, how about freshman Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burien, W. Seattle) for passing his first big piece of legislation? That was fast.  And it's quite a bill at that. The biking community has been trying and failing to pass this for years.
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