Legislators promise unattended child bill

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Some legislators in the Palmetto State are already talking about introducing a bill next legislative session, and it would make leaving a child in a car a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of about $1000.

The bill would be sponsored by Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D- Charleston) and would most likely apply to children under the age of 7. Gilliard says similar legislation was discussed last session, but never made it on the pat to become law.

Gilliard and the bill's supporters say it would hold parents responsible for being negligent in caring for their children.

Tragedies associated with kids being left unattended in cars are making headlines across the state, from the Grand Strand to the Midlands. Just last week in Richland County, a baby was kidnapped after her parents left her in a car parked in a driveway. In North Myrtle Beach about a month ago, officers responded to a report of two children under 6 who were found red and sweating in a hot car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

In both those cases, the children were OK, but there's not always a happy ending.

Many parents say a law to keep parents from leaving their kids in the car is the right thing to do.

"I wouldn't leave it completely to parental judgement because some people don't make good decisions, but I definitely think there needs to be a minimum," said Loryn Vaughn, a mom of four.

Some opponents though, say there are already laws on the books to address child neglect and the legislature doesn't need to get so specific.

Dennis Cangelosi is a former New York police officer and president of the Coastal Carolina Shield, an organization of retired law enforcement. He says the legislation could serve as a tool for law officer in trying to educate parents and caretakers about their responsibilities.

"You want to be proactive with law enforcement and not reactive. There are plenty of laws on the books if a child is injured or killed that would cover that, but a proactive law would be good," said Cangelosi.

The soonest the bill could be introduced would be when session begins again in January.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.