COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – For the first time, Amber Duffield stood before lawmakers and shared the story of her son, the tragedy that befell him and how it has impacted her family.
She did so calmly, speaking clearly with a strength she credits to her love for her son.
“It is not easy, but the love that you feel and… it just gives you strength,” Duffield said. “It just gives you strength.”
In July 2017, a deadly ride accident at the Ohio State Fair took the life of 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell.
The event inspired what is known as Tyler’s Law, a bill that would make several changes to how amusement rides are inspected and the kinds of communication that would need to occur between the owners and operators of those rides and the state.
Jarrell’s mother, step-father and sister all testified Tuesday in front of the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
It was just a week ago, the bill was given its first hearing in front of the same committee.
This bodes well for the bill, as it struggled to find footing in the last General Assembly assigned to the House Agriculture Committee at the time.
This General Assembly Chairman of the Committee State Representative Doug Green is giving it hearings right away.
Green thanked Duffield and her family for sharing their emotional story, before asking if any lawmakers present had any questions for her.
With assistance from the Department of Agriculture, the bill now has the support of the agency and its Director Dorothy Pelanda, according to its sponsors.
Those sponsors and Jarrell’s family are optimistic the bill will continue to move swiftly, perhaps in time to be put into effect before the Ohio State Fair opens in a few months.
But there is still a long way to go.
Tuesday’s hearing is just its second hearing; at least one more is expected before the committee could potentially vote on it.
At that hearing, opponents of the bill will be given an opportunity to express why the bill should not be passed or what changes would need to be made before it is.
That hearing has not yet been scheduled.
If the bill does make it out of committee, it will then have to make it through the House on a floor vote in front of all 99 members.
Passage there would send it to the Senate where the bill’s sponsors will have less influence in getting it scheduled or over what Senators do to the bill through amendments or changes.
If the Senate feels the bill is worthy of their time and has a chance of passing, it could see hearings toward that end.
However, the Senate is about to start dealing with the nitty gritty of the State Operating Budget, which could be sent from the House to their chamber later this week.
Hearings on the budget will take precedence over other matters as the legislature must have a budget in place by the end of June for the next fiscal year (and the one following since it is a biennial budget).
It is unclear if the bill will have the kind of support from the highest echelons of power in the state to make it a high priority aside from the budget itself.
This leaves the door open to the possibility of it passing through the Senate before summer break, which typically happens right after lawmakers finalize the State Operating Budget.
However, the Senate considers itself to be a heavily deliberative chamber and that could slow the bill down just enough to keep it from getting done.
It is still too early to tell for sure if the bill will make it to the governor’s desk before the amusement rides thousands will partake in at the State Fair will operate.
If it does, and if the governor signs the bill, it would go into effect immediately, as long as the emergency clause that is currently attached to the bill remains part of it.
Otherwise, there would be a standard 90 day waiting period before it takes effect.