Laura's Law one signature away from being official

Published: Jun. 16, 2011 at 6:11 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2011 at 7:19 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - A new law inspired by the death of a Gaston County teen girl is just a signature away from becoming official in North Carolina.

Laura's Law is named for Laura Fortenberry, a Gaston County teen who was killed by a drunk driver last year.

Since her death, WBTV has been following the effort by her mother to make sure Laura didn't die in vain.

"Fifty having voted in the affirmative and none in the negative, the substitute for house bill 49 has passed its third reading," declared North Carolina Lieutenant Walter Dalton as he presided over the NC Senate on June 15.

But with the law one signature short, only Governor Bev Perdue stands in the way of what Laura Fortenberry's mom, Michelle Armstrong, wanted when she talked with Molly Grantham nearly eleven months ago, and the day after she buried her daughter.

"I really don't know how to change the laws," Armstrong said, "But I know that if some of these higher officials were having to deal with what I am dealing with right now, then I think that may change the laws."

Higher officials were listening that day and heard the mother's pain and passion.

"She wanted something done and didn't know how to do it. And so I called into the radio show and talked to both Molly (Grantham) and Michelle," said Former Gaston County Representative Wil Neumann.

Neumann, along with Cleveland County Representative Tim Moore, got the ball rolling.

WBTV was with them late last year when they started drafting what would become Laura's Law.

On February 8, Armstrong came to Raleigh and spoke at an emotional press conference just before Laura's Law was filed.

"I promised my daughter after she was gone, that I would stand up and fight. She's gone and I can't do anything about her being gone, but I'm going to stand up and fight, until God takes me home," Armstrong proclaimed.

The bill sailed through the NC House and passed its third reading on March 14.

"It now goes through the Senate, where I hope it will have the same outcome of a unanimous passage there," Rep. Moore said.

The Senate took a little longer to move.

The bill passed through the committee and eventually onto the full Senate, where is passed unanimously again for the second time in three months.

"It increases the maximum time that these offenders are going to spend in prison. It also increases the minimum time you have to spend in jail," Moore said with a smile of satisfaction. "It raises fines. It raises penalties. And it shows that North Carolina is serious about getting tough on repeat drunk drivers."

Laura's Law passed a procedural vote in the house on June 16.  It is officially on its way to Governor Perdue's.

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