House rejects measure to upgrade seat belt offense

Silver Lake's mainstreet
Mainstreet in Silver Lake, Minnesota.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

The Minnesota House has rejected legislation that would allow police to stop drivers for not wearing seat belts.

Lawmakers voted 72 to 62 Thursday night to send a transportation policy bill back to conference committee for further negotiation.

State law already requires seat belt use, but the bill would have made violation of that law a primary offense, subject to a $25 fine.

Rep. Frank Moe, D-Bemidji, said the proposed requirement is an unwelcome government intrusion. Moe said he doesn't like the seat belt provision, and neither do his average constituents.

"They're people that work 60 hours a week, often times for low wages. They're hoping to get on the lake this weekend, and they just really want us to leave them alone. And at what point in time do we say enough is enough?" said Moe.

Supporters say the seat belt provision will save lives.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, who supports the measure, said critics are wrong when they claim the bill just gives cops another excuse to pull over motorists. Cornish said police do not need another reason.

"You can weave to the left over the center line. You can weave to the right over the fog line. You can have an unlit license plate, a dirty license plate, a suspended object hanging from your mirror, a cracked windshield. There's a hundred ways they can stop you. They're not looking for another way to stop you. They're looking to save lives," Cornish said.

House and Senate negotiators already removed a new booster seat requirement from the transportation bill, after Governor Tim Pawlenty said he opposed the provision.

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