Karen Chisholm has confronted a consistent problem throughout her 30 years as an Albemarle County Public Schools bus driver: other drivers.
Whether they’re distracted or don’t care, drivers just keep passing the bus when children are exiting.
“They’re not going to stop, so you have to make sure the kids don’t move,” she said. “We blow the horn and do everything we can to get the driver’s attention.”
So Chisholm started a petition that she delivered to Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, asking for help.
On July 1, House Bill 2344 became law, allowing companies that provide video cameras for school buses to work with the state to catch offenders.
Bell presented Chisholm and seven others with his annual Citizen Lawmaker Awards on Wednesday. Bell has presented the awards each year since taking office in 2002 to recognize constituents who proposed legislative ideas that became law.
Bell called the awards ceremony one of his “favorite days” of the year.
“It is very easy to say, ‘There’s a problem, somebody ought to do something,’” he said. “These are the people who not just said, ‘somebody ought to do something,’ they decided that they’re the somebody.”
Chisholm was surprised her request went from a petition to law.
“I just put the words on the paper, and my coworkers were there to back me and support me,” she said.
Other recipients supported legislation that targeted topics such as tax filings for vehicles and combating child pornography.
Among the recipients was Albemarle’s county attorney, Greg Kamptner, who was not present at Wednesday’s ceremony. He was selected for his role in legislation that allows Charlottesville and Albemarle to co-locate some court services.
John and Amanda Petrylak were honored alongside Fluvanna County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip for legislation that created stiffer penalties for crashes caused by intoxicated drivers.
Previous law only allowed for felony charges if someone was permanently impaired by a wreck. The new law makes it a felony if a victim suffers serious injuries.
Camille Cooper was honored for helping Bell with legislation to ensure that child pornography imagery is placed in a police database even if it isn’t used as evidence.
Susan Paulovich was recognized for her work to revise the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, which provides money to crime victims who have no other means to pay medical bills or families trying to cover funeral costs.
The guidelines for the fund were last revised in 2004, Bell said. The new law increased the payouts for certain expenses and raised the cap for individuals.
Not everyone brought forth crime-related legislation.
Jerry Jorgensen, formerly of Albemarle County, wanted to occasionally rent out an RV. Bell said the old law required anyone who rents cars, boats or RVs to submit tax filings every month, even if no rentals occurred.
Bell was “pessimistic” anything would change because he’d never introduced a tax bill. However, the legislation became law, and now the filings are only required when rentals occur.
Jorgensen, who now lives in Shenandoah County, said it was a “common-sense” solution.
“I see a lot of waste in government and, for me, to fill out a blank piece of paper every month is a waste of the time of the person doing it,” he said. “But also somebody in Richmond has to process that piece of paper, and the extent to which we can eliminate the waste in government, we should.”