Citizen-initiated legislation becomes law in two states
July 28, 2011
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Acting West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin each signed legislation this week affecting emergency response personnel. Virginia SB 762, known as "Ashley's Law," requires emergency vehicles to flash emergency lights and either sound a siren or horn, or yield the right-of-way, before entering an intersection. West Virginia HB 3105 gives immunity to first responders in the event they need to force entry into a private home in response to a 911 emergency call.
Both laws are a result of citizen-initiated legislation. The Virginia bill is named for Ashley McIntosh, who was killed by an emergency vehicle as it went through an intersection in 2008. The bill's sponsor, State Senator Toddy Puller (D-Fairfax County), worked for several years to pass the bill and is elated to have received "overwhelming consensus" on the bill.
The West Virginia bill is the first step in what Anna Alden hopes will be a national trend of providing civil immunity to emergency responders. She first approached her state representative Tiffany Lawrence (D-Jefferson) about introducing the legislation after her daughter, Jaclyn Alden, died in her home because her door was locked and rescue crews could not get in. Anna Alder and her daughter, Liza Oliver, have launched a nationwide campaign to encourage every state to pass similar legislation and plan to send copies of the West Virginia bill to legislatures in every state. Their next stop: Tennessee.