Pair of local bills stall in House

MARSHALL – Two bills House Rep. Chris Swedzinski was championing this session – Drake’s Law and the Brau Brothers bill – have hit respective speed bumps.

Swedzinski, R-Ghent, believes Drake’s Law would easily pass off the House floor but will have to wait until next year.

The legislation, named after Drake Bigler, Brad and Heather Bigler’s five-month-old son who was killed by a drunk driver in a crash nearly two years ago, was a victim of time constraints during this short session. Swedzinski said he tried to tie it in with another DWI-related bill but was ultimately encouraged not to.

“It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “We’ll continue to work on it but as far as finding a place for it to move through the process in the House, we were unsuccessful. It’s obviously a top priority for next year; I’ve got commitments from Democrats and Republicans to make this a priority right away next year. We tried about every avenue we possibly could but were unsuccessful in moving it forward.”

The bill would increase the maximum sentence for criminal vehicular homicide occurring within 10 years of a previous qualifying DWI offense. A qualifying offense includes an aggravating factor such as injury to a person or damage to property.

The maximum sentence would be increased from 10 to 15 years.

The drunk driver who crashed his truck into the Biglers’ SUV had a blood alcohol content of 0.351, and it was the third time he had been arrested for drunk driving since 2000. His plea deal resulted in a 48-month prison sentence.

The Brau Brothers bill, which was included in the House omnibus liquor bill and would allow for Sunday growler sales and tap room openings for rural breweries, was essentially killed by the Teamsters Union, Swedzinski said.

“They thought it was too big of an advancement for Sunday sales,” he said. “I don’t support Sunday sales, but I thought this was a good compromise. The Teamsters were very adamant against it unfortunately. Some of the rural tourist spots are really gonna suffer because of the politics of this place.”

Growlers are regulated branded, glass jugs, normally one-half gallon in size, that can be filled and refilled with tap beer from a brewery.