'Lara's Law' Revised, Passes In Senate Committee

Posted at 10:54 PM, Mar 07, 2016

A Middle Tennessee couple fighting for legislation they said would keep drivers safe, left Capitol Hill Monday angry and disappointed.

Jay and Gerri Gass went to the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee meeting Monday to fight for Senate Bill 1489 or “Lara’s Law.”  It would require all recalls to be fixed on used cars before the vehicles can be sold.

It was named after their 27-year-old daughter Lara who died in a car crash two years ago.  The ignition switch on her used Saturn Ion failed and her car slammed into the back of a semi and burned. The car’s airbags didn’t deploy, and at the time, it was unknown why the car wouldn’t stop.  The family later learned there was a recall on the vehicle’s ignition switch that they weren’t aware of at the time of the accident.

The Gasses worked with Clarksville Senator Mark Green to put together the bill.  As originally written, it would require all recalls to be fixed on used cars before the vehicles can be sold. However, during the committee meeting, Sen. Jim Tracy presented several amendments to the bill.

“This will be the first law of its kind in the nation,” said Sen. Tracy, Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee.  “It’s a tough law.”

After a 6 to 1 vote, the bill passed with the amendments.  It would only require all “stop drive” recalls or extreme recalls to be fixed on used cars before being sold.  On other recalls, the driver would be notified of the situation, and would sign an agreement acknowledging they were buying a vehicle with a recall. 

Sen. Green and the Gasses said the changes benefitted car manufacturers and dealerships and not drivers.

“In a sense, it transfers the risk from the person responsible for the manufacturing defect to the consumer, and that was my reason for opposing it,” said Sen. Green.

“This is outrageous,” said Jay Gass, Lara’s father.  “Our intent was not to go this direction.  Our intent was to fix all recalled used cars before they are sold.”

Sen. Green said only about four percent of vehicles have stop drive recalls.  Lara’s car was not one of them.  He said, as amended, the bill doesn’t go far enough to keep all drivers safe.

“We must fix this,” said Jay Gass.  “We can’t let another 5 year old or 27 year old perish because of greed and money.”

Senate Bill 1489 now goes to the Senate floor.  The Gasses said they would discuss Sen. Green possibly pulling the bill.  They said they would not support the current version.