The most important thing I found while working on HB363 (the manslaughter by vehicle or vessel – criminal negligence bill) was to continually form partnerships, keep an open mind, keep discussions factual rather than personal and never give up. It took 7 years for the bill to be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee. Seven years – although the list of supporters and Committee members in support of the bill was long. The House Committee Chair held it hostage and never allowed it to come to a vote (they have authority to do this). Finally, after more deaths and an incredible hearing that included testimony from 21 individuals/organizations, the House Judiciary Committee Chair brought the bill to a vote. A unanimous vote occurred and the bill moved to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee where the Chair, a long time supporter and bicyclists, shockingly held the bill hostage and in a face to face discussion informed me that he would not bring the bill to a committee vote. All advocates/partners in support of the bill then worked passionately to get hundreds of people to call and email the Chair and other Senators. To add to the story, the State’s Attorneys, which were long time supporters of the bill, no longer agreed with the amended language. They were working to kill the bill. Finally the bill received a positive Senate vote! We then thought, we had won, but learned that the State’s Attorneys had contacted the Governor asking him to veto the bill. More work with partners, letter writing and call campaigns took place.
A day before the bill signing ceremony, we learned that the Governor would sign the bill into law! Bike Maryland and many partners attended the signing ceremony and believe me, we were all smiling! Most of all, I’m so grateful that many of the testifiers who had lost a loved one experienced this victory. It will never bring back their beloved or sooth their pain but they do know that a movement toward an increasingly just system for bicyclists, pedestrians and many vulnerable users will exist as of October 1st (the day the bill becomes law)!