Kari Halverson
Kari Halverson, mother of Kadyn Halverson, gives her victim impact statement Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, during Aaron Gunderson's sentencing at the Worth County Courthouse in Northwood. (Jake Rajewsky/The Globe Gazette)

DES MOINES, Iowa --- Teary-eyed, but smiling, Kari Halverson, said Iowa lawmakers have done right by her – and her daughter.

Halverson was on hand at the Capitol to witness unanimous House approval of Senate File 2218, which increases penalties for people who disobey traffic laws governing how motorists and school buses share the road.

The bill is better known as Kadyn’s Law, a reference to Halverson’s 7-year-old daughter, Kadyn, who was killed last May when she was struck by a pickup while she went to board a school bus.

Halverson, who said she’s made at least 10 trips to the Capitol from her home at Kensett in northern Iowa, said witnessing final passage of the bill, which was approved earlier 47-0 by the Senate, was “very exciting … very emotional.”

"I just didn’t think this day would come this fast,” Halverson said, surrounded by family and friends, all wearing their bright pink T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Kadyn. “I thought it would take a lot longer. We put a lot of work into it. Our legislators saw that we needed it and I think they’ve all done the right thing here.”

She also was grateful the bill had won unanimous approval from both chambers.

"We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for this,” she said.

Halverson hopes Gov. Terry Branstad will sign the bill at Kadyn’s school “in front of her friends and let them be a part of it.”

What lawmakers did in SF 2218 was increase the penalties for drivers who pass the stop arm on a school bus from $200 to at between $250 and $675, not more than 30 days in jail or both for a first offense. Any further offense would be punishable by a fine between $315 and $1,875, up to a year in jail or both.

The penalty for a violation resulting in serious injury would increase to $500, suspension of their license for up to 90 days or both. A violation resulting in death could be punished by a fine of $1,000, suspension of their license for up to 180 days or both.

Another section of SF 2218 requires the departments of Transportation, Public Safety and Education to jointly study school bus safety, including the placement of cameras in school buses to aid in the enforcement of traffic laws. It also will look at feasibility of having children board and exit school buses without crossing a road or street.

During her lobbying efforts, Halverson learned a lot about the legislative process and legislators.

“I’ve learned that our legislators have hearts, that they’re real people with feelings,” she said. “It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be. It’s been so much better.”

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