‘Amelia’s Law’ makes surprise progress
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
A law seeking to make the parole granting process stricter for dangerous felons might not go up for a vote this year, but the result of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday has provided the bill with more weight when it comes time for next year’s vote.
The bill, cited as “Amelia Keown’s Law,” is known as House Bill 199 and Senate Bill 0438. The bill is named after 16-year-old William Blount High School junior Amelia Keown, who was killed in a two-vehicle crash last August.
Rep. Rick Womick, prime sponsor of the bill in the House, introduced the bill last week for a vote. Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration had looked at the bill, which would cost $668,800 to implement, and decided the state budget would not be able to fund it.
If the bill had passed the House, it would have gone to the Senate for a vote. If passed in the Senate, it would have taken effect July 1.
Since the bill was flagged as legislation the state budget could not cover this year, it was put aside to be brought back up in next year’s House meeting.
And while that may still be the case, Sen. Doug Overbey made a renewed case for the bill and its need during Tuesday’s committee meeting. After his speech, all members present voted to send the bill to the Senate Finance Means and Ways Committee. That committee, in addition to various other functions, handles all measures dealing with appropriations of state funds.
Overbey said it was a positive step in the legislative process and sends a strong message that the bill should be made into law. Overbey and several state officials, including Womick, Rep. Bob Ramsey — a co-sponsor of the bill in the House — and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey have worked with Amelia Keown’s mother and grandfather, Amanda Moore and Wayne Keown, in writing the bill. Both Moore and Wayne Keown started a campaign to make it harder for dangerous felons to make parole after learning that the alleged at-fault driver in the crash that killed Amelia Keown, 44-year-old John Charles Perkins, was on parole when the crash occurred.
“I think having a unanimous vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee will send a positive message to the House that we would like to see this enacted into law,” Overbey said. “I thought I would just speak about it and make my colleagues aware (of the bill’s need). But over the weekend as I got to thinking more about it, I thought it became more important that we take a strong, important stand at this time.”
Speaking indirectly to Amanda Moore and Wayne Keown, Overbey added, “We hear you, we stand with you and we want to advance this (bill) forward at this time.”
Overbey said the Senate will try to work with the governor’s office during next year’s budget meetings in order to appropriate the funds necessary to implement the bill. But, Overbey added, the House will also have to vote to pass the bill.
Rep. Ramsey said he applauds those in the Senate Judiciary Committee who unanimously approved sending the bill to the Senate’s Finance Committee.
“Those members have made a valiant effort to make progress on this bill and parole reform,” Ramsey said. “And we will certainly make every effort to continue that and use the success in the Senate to be an impetus for the House to achieve that same goal.”
Both Moore and Wayne Keown were disappointed last week when they learned the bill would not have a chance for a vote this year. But they were more than glad to hear of the progress made in the Senate this week, especially with the anniversary of Amelia Keown’s birthday coming up on March 27.
“It’s a really big deal for me right now,” Moore said. “It’s still a victory in my eyes ... we’re one step closer to where we want to be.”