Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday the chamber's Democratic majority is agreeing to a version of a law that will make it a felony to drive while intoxicated when a child under age 15 is in the car.
Silver said the Assembly's version of Leandra's Law would be the toughest in the nation by far. The bill is named for 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed when a station wagon full of children driven by a mother since accused of drunken driving crashed in Manhattan on Oct. 11 while heading to a sleepover.
The Assembly bill also requires an interlocking device preventing convicted drunken drivers from starting their cars when their blood alcohol levels are above 0.08 percent.
Some supporters of the bill blamed the Assembly for lack of agreement on the bill last week, when the measure could have come to floor votes in the Assembly and Senate. The supporters had accused the Assembly of watering down the bill. Now, Assembly members feel the bill is stronger than Senate versions.
"I am a grandfather and a father. I realize [we] have to protect our children," Silver told The Associated Press moments after the conference agreed on the bill in a closed-door session. "This legislation is making a statement: You'd better think twice."
The bill next goes to the Senate. After final legislative approval, the bill would go to Gov. David Paterson, who has pushed for Leandra's Law.
Last week, Leandra's father, Lenny Rosado, lobbied lawmakers for the measure in her memory.
"I'm pleading for the state, the Senate and all parties," Rosado said then. "I lost my daughter ... I feel it every day. At least, her death won't be in vain. We'll be able to save others' lives."