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Minnesota lawmakers step on the gas to pass slowpoke bill

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A fast-tracked bill to keep slower drivers out of Minnesota's left freeway lanes has made its way to the state Senate floor.

A final committee cleared the bill on Friday after some modifications to take the legal sting out of slowpoke violations. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee removed a portion that would have made offenses misdemeanors. Citations could still cost drivers at least $100 and the Department of Public Safety has been urged to launch a public awareness campaign.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. John Jasinski of Faribault, told the panel he's trying to ease congestion and improve safety.

"This will prevent people from passing in the right lane to get around a vehicle like this," he said. "I'm not promoting speeding by any means, but I believe it will improve the traffic flow of the interstates around and throughout Minnesota."

Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, pushed back on the bill and said it doubles up on current Minnesota law directing slower traffic to move over or face a petty misdemeanor.

"It's really a matter of enforcement," Latz said. "If a state trooper or an officer sees an unsafe situation out there, then they should do something about it."

After the divided voice vote in committee, the bill now awaits action by the full Senate. A companion House bill, introduced Thursday, has yet to start its travels through the process.

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, won the change that took the misdemeanor consequence out of the bill.

"It's terrifying when they're weaving in and out in front of you, so I agree with the underlying concept," she told Jasinski. "I'm just concerned about putting something else where someone is going to get a criminal record."

He accepted the proposed change as a friendly amendment.

Still, some senators still aren't on board.

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said there are other ways to address the issue. Hall said he often finds himself stuck behind slower drivers.

"I usually take a deep breath and figure I need more patience, and I use that to help myself," he said.