Lawmakers discuss bill for hit-and-run driver penalties

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A bill that would beef up the penalties for drivers of serious hit and run crashes is gaining traction the State Capitol.

“My life was changed forever,” Susan Gladding said.

One sentence into her testimony and Susan Gladding, whose husband was killed in a hit and run, needed to catch her breath.

“My husband, best friend, and father of two children Gavin Gladding was stolen from us by a reckless driver,” Gladding said.

She explained to lawmakers how her husband was out jogging when he was hit by a suspected drunk, unlicensed driver.

“The driver hid from law enforcement for almost a week while my family struggled with the loss of Gavin and also with the weight of not knowing what had happened and who is responsible,” Gladding said.

Her husband inspired the proposed “Gavin’s Law” which would increase prison time for hit and run drivers who cause serious injury or death.

Opponents of the measure say there are unintended consequences of the bill.

“All it does is increase incarceration, and we have been down that road before,” Margo George, California Public Defenders Association, said.

But Gladding’s testimony left lawmakers speechless or in tears, including Bay Area Democrat Buffy Wicks.

“I would request that we have more time to think some of this stuff through because we do want to make sure the punishment meets the crime,” Assemblymember Wicks said.

Southern California Republican Tom Lackey was immediately in support of the bill.

“Are we here to allow for accountability to be carried out or are we here to always sympathize with offenders? It gets very, very tiresome,” Assemblymember Lackey said.

On the first vote, the bill failed, but the bipartisan committee vows to work with Assemblyman Jim Patterson to get it passed.

“They have said, we know the loophole exists we want to work with you, that’s never happened before,” Assemblymember Patterson said.

Gavin’s Law is now up for reconsideration by this same committee, another hearing on this is expected in the near future.

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