A bill to raise the penalty for not wearing a seat belt in Tennessee was approved by a Senate committee Tuesday only to be shot down two hours later in a House committee.
Proponents of the bill (SB487) contended that raising the fine from $10 to $50 would motivate more motorists to buckle up and thus reduce fatalities and injuries in traffic accidents.
A recent survey indicated that Tennessee seat belt useage fell from 87 percent to 83 percent last year, according to Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott.
But some legislator critics questioned that proposition. Others said the measure appeared aimed more at collecting revenue than safety. And Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, said he disliked the whole idea of government using fines to prod people into changing behavior in the interest of their personal safety.
“We’re all grown men and women. It not up to the state to protect us from our folly. It up to us,” said Henry.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would increase the fine for not wearing a seat belt by $40 is advancing in the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro narrowly passed the Senate Transportation Committee 5-4 on Wednesday. The companion bill was to be heard in the House Transportation Subcommittee later in the day.
Currently the penalty for not wearing a seat belt is $10. Under this proposal, the fine would be $50.
Ketron said the measure is simply to encourage people to buckle up.
However, Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains said “these are hard times” and people shouldn’t be fined if they don’t want to wear a seat belt.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has officially voiced opposition to 22 bills pending in the Legislature, including measures revising the state’s motorcycle helmet law, allowing school faculty and staff to carry guns and increasing the penalty for motorists not wearing a seat belt.
The governor this year is not issuing formal “flag letters” to legislators except when there are “philosophical” objections to the measure, according to gubernatorial spokesman David Smith.
In the past, Haslam also issued “fiscal flags” against bills that called for what the governor deemed inappropriate state spending. But this year, Smith said the administration policy is to caution against any legislation that has a “fiscal note,” prepared by legislative staff, projecting a need for spending that is not part of Haslam’s budget proposal for the coming year.
“Basically, any bill with a fiscal note with at least $1 of impact on the state budget would get a fiscal flag since it’s not accounted for in the budget proposal (under prior practice),” Smith wrote in an email. “So we stopped issuing a letter because between our office issuing a letter and a non-administration bill having a fiscal note we found those efforts duplicative.”
In response to a News Sentinel request, the governor’s office provided copies of all “philosophical flag” letters that have been sent to legislators this year as of Friday. The form letters, signed by Leslie Hafner, the governor’s chief legislative liaison, do not explain reasons for opposition, but state that an administration representative will seek a meeting with the lawmaker for discussion.
“The administration understands this is an important issue to you and is cognizant of your efforts. The administration, however, respectfully disagrees with this legislation in its current form,” says a standard line in most of the letters.
Here is a list of the bills questioned by Haslam:
Elected to the state Senate in November, Republican Janice Bowling, of Tullahoma, automatically lost her position on the GOP’s State Executive Committee after missing her third consecutive meeting over the weekend, reports the Chattanooga TFP. On Saturday, GOP Chairman Chris Devaney told executive committee members the move was required by the party’s bylaws, attendees said. The state GOP’s political director, Michael Sullivan, on Monday confirmed Bowling had been removed.
“This is all just standard operating procedures according the bylaws of the state party and was in no way a removal of office for any other reason than the automatic trigger of three consecutive absences,” Sullivan said.
Efforts to reach Bowling on Monday were unsuccessful. The removal from the Republican State Executive Committee does not affect her status as an elected senator….A panel has been named to recommend a replacement at the committee’s next meeting.
News release from Department of Transportation:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Governor’s Highway Safety Office, in partnership with First Lady Crissy Haslam, will celebrate a milestone, Tuesday, October 9th at the New Hope Academy in Franklin at 2:00 p.m. The celebration will commemorate the 400,000th child in Tennessee served by Ollie the Otter. The event will spotlight the character-driven educational program initiated and supported by the Tennessee Road Builders Association and funded through the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
“This program shares an important message with children and helps to have a safe and healthy start in life,” Mrs. Haslam said.
Ollie the Otter Booster Seat and Seat Belt Safety Program is targeted to Tennessee’s elementary school children and their caregivers. With repeated exposure and by creating a fun environment, the program reaches children at a critical age, when good safety habits are formed, teaching them to make the correct choices as they move from car seat, to booster seat, to seatbelt. The program utilizes volunteers from the safety industry. Law enforcement, emergency medical services, firefighters, educators and others from the community health field play a role in the success of Ollie the Otter.
Program founder and current TRBA Foundation Chairman Carol Coleman said the program has been endorsed by education, health and safety professionals throughout the state and nation. “In less than five school calendar years, the program has visited more than 1,400 schools, incorporating more than 23,000 classrooms throughout the state,” Coleman said. “With over 1,000 trained volunteers, Ollie has visited all 95 counties. The program promotes overall safety and focuses on the use of booster seats for children under nine, or 4 feet 9 inches tall.”
Kendell Poole, Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, praised the program for educating our children and ultimately saving lives. “The success of this program is a testament to Carol Coleman’s vision and her drive to develop a prevention piece targeted at keeping our children safe. Her leadership inspired a movement in TN. She was able to attract the right players to get involved to help make the Ollie the Otter program what it is today.”
To learn more about Ollie the Otter and how to reserve a presentation, please contact Julie Brewer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 931-372-3318. Visit the Ollie the Otter website at www.seatbeltvolunteer.org.
Chattanooga developer Greg Vital said Friday he plans to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Berke, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Meanwhile, state Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is reconsidering a run for Berke’s Senate seat after the two top House Republican leaders told him they want him remain in the House, where Dean serves as floor leader.
Vital, 56, said he plans to file his qualifying petition next week to run in the 10th Senate District Republican primary in August.
“I waited until Andy made his decision, looked at the map and decided to run for what will be an open seat newly created because of redistricting,” said Vital, who is president of Independent Healthcare Properties in Collegedale.
“Half the district is in Hamilton County and half is in Bradley County and I think I can do an excellent job, having been in both districts.”
The new 10th Senate district leans Republican and Vital said he can bring a fresh business perspective to the Legislature. He is a former executive for Life Care Centers of America in Cleveland who started building assisted living centers, nursing homes and other senior housing projects in 1986.
Traffic fatalities are down by 86 this year compared to last year, putting Tennessee on track for the first sub-900 fatality year since statistics were recorded, reports the Chattanooga TFP. At the end of June 2010, Tennessee had 501 traffic deaths, but 2011 has only seen 415.
Although gas prices are high and police have been out in force to keep the roads safe, Clint Shrum, law enforcement liaison for the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, attributes the decline to one simple factor — more people are buckling up.
According to a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga study, seat belt usage is up to just over 87 percent from 81.6 percent last year.
“I think the message is finally hitting home. We put the message out there, ‘click it or ticket,’ buckle your seat belt because it’s the law, and people are starting to see the carnage that happens in accidents when people are not using a seat belt,” Shrum said. “That one act can determine whether you live or die in a crash.”