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Battle Shaping Up Over ‘Nathan’s Law’

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Jan 2011 08:22am | comments

A political battle is shaping up in the Mississippi legislature over a proposed law to stiffen penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that "Nathan's law" has both house and senate members claiming that the other is weakening school bus safety laws.

In late 2009, 5 year old Nathan Key stepped off a Jones County bus and was struck and killed by a driver illegally passing the bus.

This week, a house committee approved a bill called "Nathan's law" intended to stiffen penalties for drivers who refuse to stop for a school bus.

Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville believes the House bill actually makes laws weaker by eliminating minimum fines and dropping a provision that could result in up to five years in prison for hitting a child.

"At the end of the day here is what I want. I want a bill that works but more importantly a bill that has teeth. If you run a school bus and injury a child, you should pay the price," McDaniel said.

At a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday Nathan's mom Lori Key spoke emotionally against the house version of the law.

"What they have done on the house side, in the committee that actually presented and submitted his law, has insulted my child. It is not the real 'Nathan's Law'," Key said.

The bill's author is Representative Edward Blackmon of Canton, who chairs the House Judiciary A Committee. Blackmon believes his version is tougher because, while it doesn't have minimum fines, it has higher fines and by using aggravated assault laws carries up to 20 years in prison.

"So I insisted last year and I do the same thing this year, that the penalty by 20 years. Now, if they still have problems with that than it is still my position that their version is the one that weakens the laws," Blackmon said.

McDaniel says he will file a more comprehensive bill. Blackmon says he welcomes the chance to work out the differences between the bills.

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