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View State Law
Chapter 271

Sean’s Law Bill Signing Ceremony:
Mark French's Address
September 27, 2002 — Chatham High School

Governor Pataki, on behalf of my family and all the families in New York State who may now be spared the grief and pain that is being endured by the Moore and French families, thank you for coming to Ian’s, Patrick’s, and Sean’s high school to enact Sean’s Law.

I only hope that you will be able to return again in the near future to Chatham High School for a less solemn event – perhaps to a football game (we have a winning team this year!), a concert, a soccer game, a play, a track meet, the senior exposition or the 2nd annual Sean Patrick French Memorial Run/Walk to be hosted by our new SADD chapter next spring – so you will have a chance to better know the student body and faculty of this school who has been so supportive and has offered immeasurable comfort to the families of Sean and Ian.

Joining them here today are members of Sean and Ian’s families, family friends, running buddies and many of my colleagues from the State Office of Children and Family Services. Governor, I can personally attest to the sincere commitment that this state agency, established by you, has to the well being of New York’s children, youth and families.

Many of the people here today were just as shocked as was Cathy, Eric and I when they learned the 17-year old drunk driver in the car crash that claimed Sean’s life and Ian’s legs had been arrested just 18 days earlier for DWAI – with a BAC of .09 – enough to be considered DWI in nearly 40 other states. When our State Senator Steven Saland learned about the tragedy, he immediately crafted and sponsored legislation designed to prevent teens from re-offending after a drunk driving arrest. Senate Leader Joe Bruno dubbed the legislation as “Sean’s Law” in January when he announced plans to pass the legislation in the State Senate.

That’s when students, teachers, parents and friends from around the state began to write to their state senators and assembly members, and some of them wrote to you Governor, about the need to enact Sean’s Law as a measure to prevent such repeat offenses.

Senator Saland did not rest there – he walked down the hall of the Legislative Office Building and into the office of the Assembly’s Majority Leader and explained why Sean’s Law was a necessity. Then something wonderful happened: Bi-partisan support for the Senator’s legislation grew when the Assembly’s Majority Leader, Paul Tokasz, a former school teacher whose district near Buffalo borders the town where Sean ran with his Chatham High School team in what became his final State Cross Country championship, became the primary bill sponsor in his house and when a former teacher of Sean’s, Denise King, Vice Chair of the NYS Democratic Party, encouraged Assembly members to pass the bill.

A day after the full Senate unanimously passed Sean’s Law, the Assembly also voted unanimously to pass the legislation. The bill went through both houses within 90 days. According to Senator Bruno, Sean had set another record! We were informed of the votes on April 18th – that’s 4-18 – the time (4:18, 4 minutes, 18 seconds) Sean had run the mile as a 16-year old sophomore, winning the sectionals in 2001 while representing Chatham High School.

Coupled with the variety of new initiatives that have been commenced since that dreadful day – January 1st – by our community, school, churches, law enforcement and civic organizations, in addition to the new education and prevention efforts for Columbia County being considered on a county level by our District Attorney Beth Cozzolino, and on the state level by your staff of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, Sean’s Law will serve as the foundation to a comprehensive approach to combating Columbia County’s high rate of teenage alcohol-involved fatal and personal injury car wrecks – a rate that is nearly double the State average rate.

It’s a wonderful civics lesson for all in our school and community who supported this legislation to witness the enactment of this law here today. You are offering all of us a lesson in how government works to protect all of us, how elected officials respond to a problem identified by the public. Your presence also serves as a major explanation mark that in New York State there is no tolerance for teen drinking and driving.

With Sean’s Law in place, now other families may be spared the pain we have been subjected to. Never again will a 16 or 17 year old continue to have unfettered driving privileges after being arrested for a drunk driving offense.

For that, New York is a safer place to live.

Thank you Senator Saland, thank you Assemblyman Tokasz, thank you Governor Pataki.

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