Now That Transportation Committee Chairman Has Moved On, Dawn Nappi Believes Legislation Named After Her Daughter Will Be Passed

HOLBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There may soon be a breakthrough in a stalemate in Albany over a driving safety bill that has languished for a decade.

It would make it a felony to drive with repeated license suspensions.

A just-announced change in leadership may be the catalyst, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday.

“I feel like it’s an early Christmas gift,” Dawn Nappi said.

The Suffolk County mother is elated that a man she believes endangered lives is out. For whatever reason, Assemblyman David Gantt, the chairman of the Transportation Committee, blocked what she calls a no-brainer safety law for a decade.

“He was the major obstacle in getting ‘Angelica’s Law’ passed,” Nappi said. “I cannot believe that somebody like David Gantt can have this much power.”

Ten years ago, Long Island teenager Angelica Nappi died in a crash caused by a driver who had his license suspended seven times. Her mother, Dawn Nappi, left, says New York State still lets chronically suspended drivers off with a slap on the wrist. (credit: CBS2)

Gantt, a Democrat from Rochester, had been a one-man wall against Angelica’s Law, which is named for Nappi’s daughter, who was killed by a driver who ignored seven license suspensions and then ran a red light. He faced only a misdemeanor.

“What Angelica’s Law would do would reduce the number of suspensions from 10 to five and make that a felony charge,” Nappi said. “To me, five is pushing it. You shouldn’t even have one.

“The consequences are so lenient, it’s ridiculous. It’s insulting to a family who buries their child,” she added.

MOREDemanding Answers: Why Has “Angelica’s Law” Stalled In The New York State Assembly?

But in Albany, powerful committee chairs call the shots. Gantt, absent with kidney disease all but four days last session, would not even explain his opposition.

“There were a lot of downstate issues that really weren’t addressed in the last few years and, hopefully, with this change bills that are important and that affect us downstate will get a better look,” former state Assemblyman Jerry Kremer said.

In Gantt’s place is longtime Syracuse Democrat William Magnarelli. The change was ordered by Speaker Carl Heastie, whose spokesperson said Gantt was not replaced.

“He was named assistant speaker. He is an experienced member and will provide invaluable advice,” the spokesperson said.

But Albany insiders say it’s a fancy title that enables Gantt to save face. Angelica’s Law will now be re-introduced by Assemblyman-elect Joe DeStefano.

“I want to see the penalties much stiffer for people who have total disregard for the law,” said DeStefano, a Republican representing Medford.

MORE“This Is A No-Brainer”: LI Mom Fighting For Angelica’s Law Confronts Lawmakers 10 Years After Daughter’s Death

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, said his tweaked bill punishes motorists only for suspensions related to driving.

“The purpose of the bill is to get dangerous drivers off the road,” Lentol said.

Lentol also said he is optimistic a version of Angelica’s Law will pass in the 2019 session, 11 years after Angelica Nappi’s death.

AAA New York told CBS2 it is looking forward to re-visiting some proposals under the new leadership in Albany, including requiring rear seat belts for adults and a ban on mobile phone use by teen drivers.