A Senate proposal by Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi caps the punishment at an 18-month prison term. Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and John Corzine of New Jersey propose maximum ten-year sentences.
"This is monumental," says Ron Hayes, a safety activist who has pushed congressional Democrats and Republicans to the brink of compromise.
Hayes says he will let Democrats and Republicans reach a compromise on the two bills, although he prefers Enzi's version. He contends a felony charge of some sort is the most important element, because it's the one that gets the attention of business leaders when he speaks with them.
"When I say, 'felony charge,' you should see the ears perk up," Hayes says. "I'll guarantee you there's no big company that's going to hire you after you've been charged with a felony for killing an employee."