An Ohio lawmaker wants law to punish those who assault transit workers.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority says their drivers have been spit on, punched, hit by snowballs inside their buses and even sexually assaulted.
Now, a lawmaker wants to go after those who assault drivers by increasing the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony.
“These men and women don't need to come to work thinking they are going to get beat up or put in the hospital," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Patton, (R) Strongsville.
Patton introduced Senate Bill 107 on Tuesday. He said he proposed the bill after hearing of a record number of transit assaults in his district.
“In the city of Cleveland alone, there were nine cases in 2011. The following year, there was 25 cases,” he said.
The bill is supported by the local Transit Workers Union Local 208 which says there needs to be more teeth in the law to prevent assaults from happening, and those who commit the crimes need to be punished.
“Our main responsibility of our passengers is safety, and if we can't be safe, then at least make it so if we do get assaulted, that person will be prosecuted," said Union President Ron Dreyfus Jr.
If the transit assault bill becomes law, it would require COTA to place signs on its buses that read "Abuse or assault of staff will not be tolerated and might result in a felony conviction."
“We're going to make it a fifth degree felony on the first attempt and up to a $5,000 fine and possibly a six month suspension to ever utilize the public transit system," said state Senator Patton
He says his bill is about public safety, not just for those behind the wheel.
“It's the 40 people on the bus that we are just as concerned about,” he says.