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Add-on to Sheyenne’s Law passes through NC House

SALISBURY — Rep. Larry Pittman, R-83, is getting a second chance after an addition to Sheyenne’s Law to be it passed in the N.C. House on Monday night.

If passed, House Bill 66 would require anyone convicted of felony death by vehicle or death by impaired boating to serve jail time.

In 2016, Pittman led the passing of Sheyenne’s Law, named after Cabarrus County teenager Sheyenne Marshall, who was killed on Lake Norman. The law made it a felony charge — instead of a misdemeanor — if an impaired boater caused serious injury or death.

“The Marshalls are sentenced to a lifetime without Sheyenne,” Pittman said. “It is not too much to ask that someone who commits an act like this serve at least a minimum sentence in jail.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale, R-3, Darren G. Jackson, D-39, and Charles Graham, D-47. The bill passed in the House 86-28. Pittman said having two Democratic sponsors and the fact that Jackson is the House Democratic leader helped in passing the bill.

Pittman is hopeful that this part of the bill, which he also sponsored in 2017, will receive support in the Senate. Though it was passed in the House, it was not heard in the Senate. House Bill 66 passed its first reading on Tuesday and was referred to the committee on rules and operations.

Pittman has a supporter on the Senate side. Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, was a primary sponsor for Sheyenne’s Law in 2016. Now in the other chamber, Ford says he’s in a good place to have some weight in both the Senate and the House.

“I think it’s needed, and I think it’s overdue,” Ford said, adding he thinks it’s fair that the penalty of impaired boating go hand-in-hand with driving penalties.

When Sheyenne’s Law passed in 2016, the legislators’ response to the bill was kicked into overdrive when it was revealed that the intoxicated boat driver served only probation and not prison time.

Ford said people have to think about the death and the impact on the family, especially ahead of boating season.

Pittman would like to see another add-on to Sheyenne’s Law, making it a conviction that would affect the driver’s license of the offender.

“If someone is running a boat while impaired, they will likely be driving afterward to go home,” Pittman said.

Pittman, though, says he’s been told by colleagues that it would be tougher to get that bill passed.

Ford said if this bill is passed, he will be satisfied with Sheyenne’s Law.

If House Bill 66 passes, it would become effective Dec. 1.

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