Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Senate Panel Approves Caitlin's Law

The family of Caitlin Wooten asked a Senate panel today for support of The Caitlin Wooten Act. Shortly after hearing testimony from Donna Wooten, Caitlin’s mother, Senate Bill 1037 was approved by a unanimous vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Paddack, an Ada Democrat and author of the measure, said the law seeks to protect Oklahoma families and communities from senseless acts of violence.
"It takes courage to turn tragedy into triumph," Paddack said. "This family has shown great courage throughout this process. I am proud that this bill is one step closer to becoming law since it passed with overwhelmingly bi-partisan support today. It will honor the memory of Caitlin Wooten and help us create a safer Oklahoma for all our families."
Paddack said SB 1037 contains three major reforms that are tough on crime and smart for Oklahoma families. The bill is aimed at strengthening bail laws by requiring persons charged with a violent crime to prove they are not a public danger before they may post bail. It also beefs up victim protection order (VPO) laws in Oklahoma to mirror federal VPO laws.
Finally, the bill will allow for an electronic notification system, called Victim Identification and Notification Everyday (VINE) to be put into place statewide in order to notify victims when offenders move throughout the criminal justice system.
"This bill will not bring back my daughter," Donna Wooten, mother of 16-year-old Caitlin, said. "But if it protects just one Oklahoma family from going through what my family has suffered, if it can help create a safer Oklahoma , then this bill is the greatest thing we could ever do to honor the memory of Caitlin."
Senator Paddack began working with members of Caitlin’s family shortly after the teenager was murdered by Jerry Don Savage. She knew after learning of Caitlin’s tragic death, as a lawmaker she must work to change the laws to prevent another family from being ripped apart by a senseless act of violence.
"I told this family that I didn’t know where this journey would take us, but we would certainly take that journey together," Paddack said. "So today we stand here together one step closer to making The Caitlin Wooten Act a reality. It’s the right thing to do and I applaud the members of the judiciary committee for their support of this bill and I commend this family for the dedication they have for making a difference in the lives of so many Oklahomans."
Paddack said because of the unanimous approval of the measure today, she expects the bill to make it through the legislative process without any problems.
"I can’t imagine this bill being held up for political purposes because I believe every legislator in this building wants to do their part in preventing another family from suffering a loss like the one of Caitlin," Paddack said. "SB 1037 is tough on crime and it is a strong bill for Oklahoma families and Oklahoma communities."
Paddack said she will work diligently with House and Senate leaders as the bill works its way through the legislative process.
"Caitlin’s Law sends a strong message to those who think they can get away with hurting Oklahoma families," Paddack said. "It sends the message that Oklahoma will not tolerate this sort of senseless violence because we believe in protecting Oklahoma families and our communities."