FRANKFORT — Michigan resident Debbie Moskwa has tried for two years to get Kentucky's law changed to toughen penalties against drunken drivers who end up killing people.
Her son, Rick Moskwa, was killed by a drunken driver who was let out of prison less than a year later. Moskwa is hoping the Kentucky General Assembly — which has two scheduled days remaining this year — acts on a bill to prevent that from happening again.
"It isn't about being vindictive," Moskwa said in a telephone interview. "I just don't want to have another family to have to walk in my shoes."
The measure Moskwa is hoping for is one of nearly 140 bills that have cleared either the House or Senate and are awaiting further legislative action. The legislature is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday.
Time is running out.
Supporters of other bills — one would prohibit the sale of novelty lighters throughout the state — are also hoping to revive their causes.
Moskwa's son, Ricky, and a woman traveling in a different vehicle were killed after the 2002 Kentucky Derby in an alcohol-related crash along Interstate 71. Moskwa, of Hazel Park, Mich., and her husband have spent their own time and money lobbying Kentucky lawmakers to change the law — without success.
She's hoping lawmakers will take action before Friday.
In Moskwa's case, the motorist who caused the crash that killed her son and severely injured her husband served a fraction of his sentence before a judge granted him shock probation, she said. Under Kentucky law, a judge may release an offender who has served 30 to 180 days of his or her jail sentence under so-called shock probation, for use with first-time, non-violent offenders on the theory that a small taste of prison life is enough to "shock" them into becoming law-abiding.
Moskwa's proposal, sponsored by Rep. Tom Riner, a Louisville Democrat, would prevent drunken drivers who wind up killing people from getting such probation.
Last year, the proposal cleared the Senate before stalling in the House. This year it has cleared the House and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I will be back," Moskwa said, noting that she spent about $1,000 to lobby Kentucky lawmakers this year alone. "I will come down until this is done. I will not go away."
Riner said legislative leaders could get bills moving if they were so inclined, and he says he'll push the drunken-driving measure again next year if needed.
Sometimes persistence helps.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson is on his fourth attempt to push legislation that would overhaul Kentucky's campaign finance reporting rules. He's hoping this year ends in success.
The plan would require candidates running for statewide office — including governor, attorney general or secretary of state — to file their state financial reports electronically if they raise more than $25,000.
Among other things, it would also require candidates to file an extra report during the general election. Statewide candidates would have to file an additional report in the primary.
The legislation is still pending in two different bills and could head to Gov. Steve Beshear with legislative approval.