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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville lawmaker is taking steps to try and protect bus and cab drivers, and their passengers. She has proposed a state law designed to curb violence on public transportation.
House Bill 25 would stiffen penalties for those who commit acts of violence on public buses and taxicabs.
The problem was highlighted this past July, when two men boarded a TARC bus in broad daylight and shot and killed 17-year-old Rico Robinson. The two suspects now face murder charges.
The July murder was the extreme, but TARC drivers and passengers face lesser acts of violence almost everyday.
"This is something that there's going to be a zero tolerance for," said State Representative Joni Jenkins, who is sponsoring the bill.
Under HB 25 any attack on a driver or passenger would be at classified as an assault. It would also increase the penalty for menacing and disorderly conduct on public transportation.
"Many times our transit workers are so isolated in what they do.They're on a bus or in a taxi in many, many parts of our town with not much defense," said Jenkins.
The bill is being pushed by the union representing TARC drivers to put more teeth into current laws.
"If you throw anything or you spit on them or something like that, it's just a misdemeanor. It's not a deterrent," said Jonathan Dooley, president of ATU Local 1447.
"I want riding or operating a TARC bus to be as safe as it possibly can be, and this is just one more tool in terms of doing that," said TARC Executive Director Barry Barker.
Jenkins says this is not just an urban problem. She hopes to gain support from rural legislators because the bill includes school buses.
"I think we have to remind rural legislators that they have children on school buses. That they have people who are being taken by public transit to doctors appointments. Very often it's a very vulnerable population in rural areas."
Jenkins says the bill has the support of House Speaker Greg Stumbo. And she's hoping for a hull House vote this session.