Hit-and-run bill yanked

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) has shelved a bill inspired by the death of a Newport Beach doctor that would have upped the penalty in fatal hit-and-run cases.

Assembly Bill 956 would have mandated an extra five years behind bars for hit-and-run motorists convicted of vehicular manslaughter.

He pulled it from a committee hearing last week because California's Legislature has not been passing new regulations that add prison time, said Chad Morgan, Mansoor's chief of staff.

Since 2007, California's Senate Committee on Public Safety has maintained a policy against considering any legislation that would exacerbate overcrowding in the state's prison system.

Any bill that increases prison sentences is simply held in that committee, Morgan said.

"So it was DOA [dead on arrival]," he said. "We introduced it knowing it was DOA because it was an important issue to discuss."

Mansoor plans to bring back the bill next year, hoping the Senate committee's policy may change.

He originally introduced the bill in February after the death of Irvine resident and Newport Beach doctor Catherine "Kit" Campion Ritz.

Constituents approached Mansoor with the idea after a hit-and-run driver killed Campion Ritz while she was biking in Newport Beach in September.

The driver, Michael Jason Lopez, 40, of Anaheim, pleaded guilty this month to one felony count of injury hit-and-run and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter.

An Orange County Superior Court judge sentenced him to four years in prison and one year in county jail.

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