The Minnesota House waited until the last day of the session to pass a bill that would allow police to stop vehicles solely for seat belt violations.
The measure would make failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, and would apply to anyone in a vehicle. The House passed the bill today by a vote of 73-60.
Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, says law enforcement officials are among the bill's biggest backers.
"Our law enforcement officers are tired of going to an accident and having to clean up the mess that's left there," said Norton. "The heartbreaking results of people that are ejected from their cars and killed needlessly."
Opponents of the bill include civil libertarians, and urban legislators who fear racial profiling. Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, says police are pulling over people of color too often for the wrong reasons.
"We should not adopt a cavalier attitude about the issue of racial profiling, and provide yet another pass to bigoted cops to pull over citizens in this state and subject them to that kind of fascist, bigoted oppression," said Mariani.
A key opponent of a primary seat belt law, Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, convinced his colleagues to add another requirement to the bill. Rukavina's amendment would allow motorists to exceed the posted speed limit while passing another vehicle on a two-lane road.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill later in the day.