With just slightly more than a week left in their regular session, West Virginia legislators have a lot of work to finish. Several major items of business have yet to be handled.
Few are as important as "Andrea's Law." If lawmakers approve it, the new statute will save lives.
Andrea's Law is named after a 14-year-old Mountain State girl killed last fall by a repeat drunken driver. By the night his vehicle crossed the centerline and plowed head-on into a car carrying Andrea Bailes, the man who killed her had accumulated eight convictions for driving while under the influence. Yet he continued to place others at risk knowingly.
The dead girl's mother, Deana Spaulding, began campaigning for tougher penalties for drunken drivers not long after her daughter's death. It is a campaign many, including this newspaper, have been involved in for many years.
Finally, someone in Charleston listened. Andrea's Law was introduced in the Legislature earlier this month. It provides stronger penalties for those who are convicted repeatedly of DUI. A third or subsequent conviction would result in a mandatory prison sentence of 3-10 years, if the law is enacted.
In addition to the stiffer penalty for repeat offenders, the bill would make it a felony if a driver under the influence causes an accident that results in a fatality or serious injury.
Members of the state Senate approved the measure Tuesday. Now the House of Delegates must act.
Andrea's Law is not like most of the bills remaining on legislators' desks. Most amount to fine-tuning the machinery of state government, taking care of some special request by a few people or perhaps a special interest group, or correcting fiscal problems from the past.
Again, this is different. Lives depend on the bill being enacted. If it fails, there is no doubt innocent lives will be taken by habitual DUI offenders. Members of the House should recognize that - and pass the bill.