Rauner signs Conor’s Law at Blackburn College
By Eric Becker
CARLINVILLE (Sept. 28, 2017) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Tuesday afternoon signed a stricter DUI custody law at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Blackburn College’s Mahan Science Wing.
Conor’s Law is a non-partisan bill named after Conor Vesper, a Blackburn student from Staunton who died in May, 2015 after a series of events following his arrest near Carlinville for driving under the influence.
It was only fitting the signing took place in the science building since Conor Vesper, then 20, spent most of his time studying while at Blackburn.
“No parent should have to bury their child,” Rauner said. “I was so struck by their strength and courage and willingness to take their pain and try to turn it into good for others.
“This feeling of caring about others is what makes Illinois such a wonderful home. I am honored to sign Conor’s Law. Again, all of us owe a sense of gratitude to the Vesper family for their strength and their advocacy.”
Conor’s parents, Alice and Jack Vesper, and sister Hannah were on hand for the ceremony, along with State Senator Andy Manar and State Representative Avery Bourne.
Senate Bill 2185, Conor’s Law, requires anyone under 21 who is arrested from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can only be released to the custody of a responsible adult or upon passage of a voluntary breathalyser test.
On May 23, 2015, Vesper was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence. He was taken to jail, where he later posted bond and was released.
He walked 13 blocks to his apartment after being released, driving away in his roommate’s car toward Staunton. The erratic driving caught the attention of police from four agencies, which gave chase. Vesper later died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Alice Vesper read a statement from the family thanking the many who have made this celebration possible.
“Although this will never bring Conor back, we know we are honoring Conor by working diligently to pass Conor’s Law,” Alice Vesper said. “This has been a long journey. But today, with the signing of Conor’s Law, we are doing our part to keep another family from experiencing our horrific pain. This is a victory for the entire state of Illinois.”
Conor’s Law passed 11-0 by the state’s Criminal Law Committee back in May leading to Tuesday’s official announcement and signing.
“Today is a celebration,” Blackburn President Dr. John Comerford said. “Conor Vesper will now have a legacy that saves lives. My great admiration goes to the Vesper family – you will not meet a more impressive family.”
State Representative Avery Bourne expressed her support for the family and the passing of Conor’s Law.
“We’ve been able to craft a law that will forever change lives in this state,” Bourne said. “We didn’t know if it would it pass, when it would pass and it was a really tough process. But thank you so much to Conor’s family for their hard work, their labor of love and the tenacity for getting this done.”
State Senator Andy Manar sponsored Conor’s Law, addressed the audience with his thoughts on this new law.
“I received a letter in the mail from the Vesper family shortly after Conor’s passing,” Manar said. “I picked up the phone and called the Vesper family and asked them what can we do make sure what you’re going through isn’t ever experienced again by parents and siblings and family and friends across the state.
“Little did I know at that time we opened up tremendous legislative discussion about how laws work and how laws interact and what the impact that flaws or miscalculations are on real people like Conor Vesper.”
The Vespers came to Springfield to help advocate for the Senate Bill 2185. Manar credits the bravery of the Vespers for making it a reality.
“I cannot imagine what it’s been like for both of you and your family,” Manar said to the Vespers. “And you turned it into something positive to make sure others like you won’t have to experience it again.”
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, seated, signs Conor’s Law into effect at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Blackburn College’s Mahan Science Wing. Shown with Rauner, from left, are: State Senator Andy Manar, Alice Vesper, Hannah Vesper, Jack Vesper, State Representative Avery Bourne and Blackburn College President Dr. John Comerford. Photo/Eric Becker