HARRISBURG —Kevin’s Law is law.
By a vote of 49-1, legislation to close Pennsylvania’s hit-and-run “loophole” — under which leaving the scene of a fatal crash carries a lesser minimum sentence than a DUI homicide — passed the state senate today.
The change takes its unofficial name from Kevin Miller, a Dallas five-year-old who died in December 2012 after being struck by Thomas W. Letteer, of Plains Township, who left the scene of the crash on North Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, cast the only dissenting vote.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law at 6 tonight in a private ceremony attended by family members.
There was a sea of yellow in the state Senate gallery this afternoon, as relatives and friends of Kevin Miller, sporting commemorative t-shirts, awaited passage of the legislation.
The bill passed the state house by a 199-2 vote on Friday, and was anticipated to be voted on by the state Senate today.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and several members of her present and past staff — assistant district attorneys Mamie Phillips and Sam Sanguedolce and former assistant district attorney Alexis Falvello — are present as well.
“We are here in support of the family,” Salavantis said.
Currently, the charge carries only a one year minimum jail sentence, but Senate Bill 1312 will put the penalty on par with the three-year sentence for a DUI homicide.
More than 60 people packed into a chartered bus and several cars this morning as supporters of “Kevin’s Law” headed to Harrisburg, including Kevin’s parents, Caroline and Stephen.
State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Twp., acknowledged the group a short time ago as proceedings got underway.
While Kevin Miller’s death was not the only local case fuelling the desire for change, the issue took on renewed prominence after Letteer’s sentencing in May, when Miller’s family joined prosecutors and lawmakers — including state Baker, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township and state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca — at a press conference calling on state legislators to change the law.
Carroll, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, tacked the proposed change onto Senate Bill 1312, which was introduced to amend the state’s Highway Code on a number of other issues, including vehicle lengths and transportation of modular housing.
Carroll noted his amendment also deals with changing the highway code, thus is considered the same subject matter as the original content of the bill.
Today’s Senate session began at 1 p.m., but with many issues before lawmakers today as the state budget deadline looms, it is unclear at what time lawmakers will consider Kevin’s Law. The chamber recessed at 1:35 for a Republican caucus.