Ron Bersani of Marshfield, MA, keeps a 3-inch binder with a meticulously kept collection of news clippings about the death of his granddaughter, Melanie Powell. Bersani, 59, has lobbied for nearly a year to toughen state laws against drunk drivers like the one who struck and killed Melanie, 13, in 2003, the Boston Globe reports. He is fighting for what is known as Melanie’s Bill, a cause embraced by some lawmakers, Governor Mitt Romney, and victims’ families to strengthen Massachusetts’ drunken-driving laws, which are among the weakest in the nation.
A diluted version of the bill passed last week, but Romney is expected to send it back to the legislature today with amendments to toughen it. The driver who killed Melanie was a repeat offender who had several glasses of wine when she left a restaurant, got in her car, and hit Melanie. Bersani and Melanie’s parents, Tod and Nancy Powell, endured what Bersani called a horrible 15-month ordeal in the courts before the conviction of the driver, who is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence. An example of what Bersani faces: legislators deleted a provision that would allow use of certified court records, instead of witness testimony, as evidence in sentencings of prior drunken-driving offenses. ”Who does this benefit? Drunks and their defense attorneys,” Bersani said.