In memory of Jeff

Roth bill passes state house unanimously

By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Not often do a third of the lawmakers in the Tennessee House of Representatives walk up to sign on as co-sponsors of a bill while it is being presented.

That’s what happened Monday evening as Blount County’s representatives Doug Overbey and Joe McCord and Sevierville’s Richard Montgomery presented a bill in memory of cyclist Jeff Roth.

Roth was killed when a pickup truck struck him on West Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville this past August. The driver of the truck, Tommy Lee Carroll, allegedly sped from the scene and was stopped after hitting two other trucks. Carroll is scheduled to appear in front of General Sessions Judge Robert Gallegos at 1:30 p.m. April 24.

Overbey and McCord presented a bill on Monday, March 12, that would require drivers to stay a minimum of 3 feet from bicyclists or pedestrians while overtaking or passing them.

Overbey, McCord and Montgomery sponsored the bill initially. With Roth’s wife, Kathryn, in the House chamber to hear the bill presented, members filed up to the front to sign on as co-sponsors. Overbey spoke about the presentation and about members unanimously approving the bill.

Overbey said it is rare to have someone personally affected by a bill on hand as it is being voted on.

"I think it was a honor to the process that Kathy drove down today and was there and present in the chamber and was recognized by our colleagues for the loss she and her three daughters sustained," he said.

The process took on a lot of emotion, Overbey continued.

"I’m just really grateful members of the House came together to recognize the issue and recognize we need to share the road and be alert and concerned about bicyclists or pedestrians who are along the side the road," he said. "It was really amazing that while Representatives Montgomery , McCord and I were presenting the bill, the members of the House started filing up and signing on as co-sponsors. I know it was very much appreciated by Kathy Roth. It was a real, true and fitting memorial for her husband."

Overbey said about a third of the chamber, 30 to 40 people, signed onto the bill as it was being presented.

"It’s a rare bill that, while you’re presenting it, people feel moved to come up and sign on at that point," he said. "It was a combination of the remarks made and Kathy’s presence on the floor. It was very much bi-partisan supported."

Overbey said Kathy Roth appeared touched by the moment.

"It was a unanimous vote," he said. "I think she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and for the respect shown for her husband."

The law states that when a vehicle is overtaking a pedestrian or bicyclist, the vehicle must maintain a reasonable distance of no less than 3 feet from the individual. To not do so will be a Class E misdemeanor.

The purpose of the bill is to raise awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists.

"They should be alert and be cautious," Overbey said of drivers. "We need to share the road."

Overbey said Montgomery supported the bill because there was an outpouring of support from bicyclists in Sevier County for the Roth family.

"They are a bicycling community," said Overbey. "They came together in support of this bill."

The bill moves to the Senate where Overbey said he hopes it gets the same support it got in the House.

State Sen. Raymond Finney said Monday evening he would sponsor the bill in the Senate.

"I’ll be co-sponsoring that in the Senate," he said. "It hasn’t come up yet, but I will be honored to be a co-sponsor when it
comes up."

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