Proposals will die without approval from
By Andy Kanengiser
The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger
Supporters of tougher seat-belt laws to encourage Mississippians
to buckle up and save lives may have to wait until next year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports
at least half of the 1,799 highway fatalities in Mississippi
between 2000 and 2002 could have been prevented if seat belts
had been worn.
Like hundreds of other general bills, the seat-belt legislation
will die this session if House committees do not give approval
by Tuesday. That's the deadline for House and Senate committees
to report out bills and constitutional amendments originating
in their chambers.
The seat-belt legislation would let police ticket motorists
solely for not buckling up. Now, drivers must be stopped for
another violation, such as speeding, before they can be issued
a $25 ticket for not wearing a seat belt.
Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens, one of the authors of the seat-belt
bill, said he doubts it will survive Tuesday's deadline.
His bill and a similar one by Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison,
have received endorsements from transportation officials,
the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and medical groups.
If Mississippi passes the bill, it also would qualify the
state for up to $9 million more in federal funds, said Central
District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall.
Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, said a so-called primary
seat-belt law would save lives, but "people don't want
the government telling them what to do."
That's why House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said he's
not supporting the legislation. Many people see it as another
example of government interference in their daily lives, he
A bill expected to survive would OK toll roads and bridges
in some parts of the state. Under the legislation, by Sen.
Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, proceeds would go to specific road
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport,
said he expects the proposal will be brought up today. "It's
worth looking at toll roads," he said. "There have
not been many negative comments."
Other states, such as New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware, have operated toll roads
Lawmakers also could be voting on several abortion bills
this week, including one that would exempt health-care providers
from performing the procedure if they have a moral objection.
Another bill expected to come up for a vote on the House
floor requires doctors to disclose when they've treated an
abortion-related complication. While patients' names wouldn't
be disclosed, the reports would be used to compile statistical
data on medical issues arising from abortions.
Legislation dealing with abortion inevitably prompts heated
debate, and this time won't be any different, said Rep. John
Moore, R-Brandon, an antiabortion advocate who supports the
measures. "Emotions always start flying," he said.