A bill sponsored in honor of former Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employee and Franklin County resident Lyndon Ebker has passed the Legislature and awaits the signature of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, after the April 2016 death of Ebker who was hit and killed while working with MoDOT on the Highway 100 bridge over Boeuf Creek not far from his home in New Haven.
The bill, also called “Lyndon’s Law,” requires automatic driver’s license revocation when a driver strikes a highway worker in a construction or work zone or a first responder in an emergency zone.
Since the bill was originally filed in early January it has had many ups and downs to gain approval in the House and eventually in Senate last Friday morning.
“The last week has been a roller coaster of emotions,” Griesheimer said. “There were several times I thought the bill was dead but we made it.”
Griesheimer explained after a contentious conference committee that saw Senate amendments added and then eventually removed from the bill and the vote timing made it even more stressful.
“The Senate had a 26-hour filibuster on the fetal heartbeat bill and had just approved the General Motors package,” he said. “The floor leader told me my bill would be the first one to be voted on Friday morning.”
After a final passage in the Senate by a 33 to 9 vote, the bill with its amendments in the House was sent to Gov. Parson by a vote of 90 to 34.
“I feel pretty confident the governor will sign it,” Griesheimer said. “I’ve spoken with his office and they didn’t express any concerns.”
He added a request has been made that if the governor does decide to sign the bill, a signing ceremony be held in Franklin County, possibly at the bridge named in Ebker’s honor.
“Not to be corny, but this is why you run for office,” Griesheimer said. “When you’re able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Since his death more than three years ago, Ebker’s daughter Nicole Herbel, other family members and co-workers have become unexpected advocates for work zone safety.
Herbel, who testified on both the House and the Senate, says the passage of the bill is a breath of fresh air.
“We have had nothing but bad news the past three years,” Herbel said. “We know it’s not going to bring Dad back, but it’s nice to have something good tied to our loss.”
Herbel said she was kept up to date on the bill’s status the past several months by Griesheimer and representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
“Aaron called me right after it passed and said ‘We did it’,” she said. “I, of course, broke down and cried. I really thought he was calling to tell me it didn’t work out.”
Herbel said she has written a letter to Gov. Parson urging his support of the bill and also asking that he come to Franklin County to sign it at the accident site.
“The last time we tried to have a ceremony at the bridge, there were too many safety concerns,” she explained. “There is a conservation area right down the road.”
She added a ceremony also could be held at the Beaufort MoDOT garage that was Ebker’s base of operations and where the bridge dedication ceremony was held in October 2017.
“It would be great to have it signed in front of all of the guys who were out there the day Dad died,” Herbel said. “Plus, this is a big deal for MoDOT.”
As the bill progressed through the Legislature, there were many additions made and subtracted from its original form even before it made it to the Senate.
Griesheimer knew keeping the bill “clean” it would be ripe for last minute Senate amendments that didn’t have a chance of passing on their own and could even help the bill gain support.
Several memorial highway designations were added to the bill as well as an additional license renewal fees of $6 and $12 which will go toward the maintenance of license facilities across the state.
“Most of the amendments are not controversial and everybody could agree to them,” Griesheimer said. “It was just so disheartening to know we worked so hard to get the bill to where it was and then to know it was probably dead in the last week of session.”
The bill was handled in the Senate by president pro tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who also helped get the bridge names after Ebker a few years ago along with then State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, whose House seat Griesheimer now occupies.
Alferman vacated his House seat last year to work as a legislative liaison for Gov. Parson.
Another factor that makes the passage of this bill extraordinary is the fact this it’s Griesheimer’s first legislative session since being elected in November 2018.
“I had colleagues tell me it usually takes two or three years before a new lawmaker you can get a bill passed,” Griesheimer said. “I’m grateful to Sen. Schatz, Justin (Alferman) for all of their help on this bill.”
Griesheimer also credited the Missouri Department of Transportation for assistance that came from some of its employees lobbying lawmakers to sign off on the bill.