Updated 11/18/2009 11:29 PM
Paterson Signs Nation's Toughest DWI Law
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Governor David Paterson signed the nation's toughest drunk driving law Wednesday, making it a felony to drive intoxicated with a passenger 15 years old or under in New York.
The State Senate passed the bill 58-0 this afternoon, a day after it was passed by the State Assembly.
The legislation is named for 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed last month when the car she was riding in crashed on the West Side Highway.
The driver, Carmen Huertas, has been indicted on charges of manslaughter and drunk driving.
The crash prompted calls for tougher laws against drunk drivers.
Under the bill, it is a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car, and it carries a maximum sentence of one to four years. Those who injure a child passenger while driving drunk face a D felony and four to 15 years in prison.
Driving recklessly while intoxicated and causing the death to a child passenger will be considered a B felony and will carry seven to 25 years in prison, according to the new legislation.
All those convicted of a DWI will be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
"Perhaps the passage of this legislation will help provide relief and will assure us this kind of situation might never happen to another parent such as yourself," said Paterson to Lenny Rosado, immediately before signing the bill. "This child was victimized by the complete irresponsibility of a driver who was warned several times before a fatal accident."
"She was my heart, my soul, and my best friend," said Rosado. "And the day after I made a decision that I don't want to see no other parent or grandparent lose their child the way I lost my child, to someone who was very reckless."
Both houses also passed the long negotiated Authorities Reform Bill Wednesday, which is meant to bring increased transparency to the state's authorities.
Still, the one reason why lawmakers were brought back up to Albany has not yet been accomplished. Wednesday marked special session day four which came and went without a deal to close the state's $3.2 billion budget deficit.
"I wouldn't put a timeline on this kind of negotiation. Numerically we're probably not far apart in numbers. But as I've said before my interest is not in numbers, it's what are you hitting," Paterson said.
The governor and leaders say talks will continue and hopefully they'll have a deal by Thursday. If not, the governor says they'll continue to work.
Paterson says he wants to see "real and recurring cuts," and has criticized the Legislature for refusing to find solutions.
All five legislative leaders met with the governor behind closed doors late Tuesday night. The main stumbling blocks, according to the leaders, remain the governor's proposed cuts to education and health care.
While a new Marist Poll finds that a majority of voters do not agree with the way the governor is handling the fiscal crisis, they also do not blame Paterson for the budget gap.
According to the survey of more than 800 registered voters, 70 percent believe the state representatives are to blame for failing to address the problem early on, while only 21 percent blame the Paterson.
The poll has a margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.