Punishments get initial approval

PHILADELPHIA. The state Senate Transportation Committee voted on a pair of bills yesterday that would increase penalties for both hit-and-runs and “aggravated assault while driving under the influence.” The votes, however, came after amendments watered the bills down.

In both instances, the vote was 11 to 1 in favor with Sen. Jane Earll (R-Erie), a former assistant district attorney and Lt. Governor nominee, dissenting. Earll expressed reservations about mandatory-minimums, increased costs and prison overcrowding.

The bills now proceed to the full state Senate for a vote.

“I look forward to addressing the issue of hit-and-runs as these bills move through the process,” Sen. John Rafferty, R-Chester, said.

Despite the approval, the news underwhelmed Theresa Sautter, whose 15-year-old daughter Marylee Otto was fatally struck on March 28, 2008, by prison nurse Michelle Johnson. Johnson, who fled in her Toyota Sequoia to get to work at Curran-Fromhold, is scheduled for a September release.

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but that’s not good enough,” Sautter said. “It makes me sick. They’re not the ones who wake up every day knowing their child won’t be there.”

If the bills garner enough votes to pass, they would take effect 60 days later.

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