If there was a shared sentiment Friday morning as Gov. Pat Quinn signed "Julie's Law" at a special ceremony at , it was bittersweetness, the idea that something positive could come out of tragedy of Julie Gorczynski's death.
. The driver had been placed on court suspension seven times previously, all for excessive speeding. A week before the accident, the Frankfort teen had graduated from L-W North, and a week later, she was to turn 18.
Family members, friends and government officials joined the governor at the signing Friday for . Sponsored by Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) and Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights), the new law prohibits judges from granting supervision to offenders charged with going 30 mph over the limit on highways and 25 mph in urban areas. The law goes into effect July 1, 2013.
"It means everything," Diane Kozacek, Gorczynskis grandmother, said of the new law and having the governor travel to L-W North for the signing.
"This has to stop, the excessive speeding," she added. "If this had been in place five years ago, she might still be alive today."
Kozacek, who lives in Frankfort, said the family had been to Springfield many times to work with Crotty and other officials to make Julie's Law happen.
"It's bittersweet. I miss my best friend more than anything," said Liz Delia, of Mokena, who had been friends with Gorczynski since they were freshmen at L-W North. The two met in biology class when they sat near each other on the first day. They immediately hit it off, said Delia, who now attends .
Delia and other friends found Friday's event to be a way to celebrate Gorczynski's memory, not just with the creation of the new law but also by remembering her as a classmate, co-worker and confidante. They gathered near the tree on the L-W North grounds dedicated to Gorczynski and reminisced.
Delia recalled the endless sleepovers they had. James O'Donnell, a student who knew Gorczynski, talked about the times they made cotton candy together after school. Meghan McCarthy, another friend from L-W East, remembered how they went to Forever 21 in downtown Chicago for Gorczynski's 17th birthday, and how excited Gorczynski was that the clothing store had more than one floor.
A high school is an unusual setting to sign a bill into law, but it was an appropriate location to enact Julie's Law.
"This was where she was," Delia said. "Her energy is here. Her home is just a couple blocks away."
Crotty requested the L-W North location and worked with the governor's office to make it happen, even calling up officials to see if the event could be held at the school.
"I really wanted it to be here," Crotty said, adding that the high school location also made it easier for friends to attend. "I remember all the good times I had in high school. This is where a lot of good memories are. … Supt. [Lawrence] Wyllie was just so taken back by the request."
Constituents in Frankfort Square as well as Gorczynski's grandfather in Tinley Park alerted Crotty to the late teen's tragedy. From there, the state senator met with Gorczynski's parents and started down the road of creating legislation that would try to stop something like this from happening again, she said. Throughout the process, Crotty said she was impressed at how many lawmakers and elected officials worked with her to make Julie's Law a reality.
"Julie's story has touched every single person who I've talked to," Crotty said.
Gov. Quinn also signed three other pieces of legislation into law at Friday's signing. Here's what they were:
- Expanding the definition of construction and maintenance works zones to limit cell phone use throughout these locations in an effort to prevent distracted driving. This law goes into effect Jan. 1.
- Making it illegal to use a mobile phone within 500 feet of an emergency scene. It also expands the definition of "electronic message." This law begins immediately.
- Prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile phones or texting while driving and amends the state vehicle code to make this a "serious traffic violation." This law goes into effect Jan. 1.
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