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Archive for Sunday, April 1, 2001

Graves upset by House opposition

Child-passenger safety upgrade passed up by legislators

April 1, 2001

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— Despite their public explanations, Gov. Bill Graves is bewildered by some legislators' opposition to strengthening the state's child passenger safety law.

"I have a really hard time understanding the logic that goes into concluding that we shouldn't have strong laws that require children to be properly restrained," Graves told reporters Friday.

"I'm really disappointed that this Legislature is choosing to do nothing," he said.

Opponents have said tougher requirements backed by Graves would be a financial hardship on some of their constituents.

The Senate has approved two separate bills requiring parents to put more children in special safety seats. Senators approved their second bill Thursday, after the House failed to act on the first one.

Kansas' existing law received an "F" grade from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign earlier this year.

The existing law requires that children under 4 ride in safety seats and children 4 to 14 wear seat belts unless there are more children than seat belts in a vehicle.

Under both bills passed by the Senate, children who are under 4 or weigh less than 40 pounds would have to ride in safety seats that meet federal guidelines. Children from 4 to 7, up to 80 pounds, would have to ride in booster seats. And every child from 7 to 14 and over 80 pounds would have to wear a seat belt.

The House Transportation Committee endorsed the first bill after weakening it, but House leaders, sensing opposition, never brought it up for debate.

Critics said the bill would place a financial burden on parents who would have to purchase booster seats or new vehicles, if the seats did not fit in the vehicles they already owned.

Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, noted that he agreed to put the second bill before House-Senate negotiators, making it possible for a plan to emerge this year.

Graves said he was willing to accept the House Transportation Committee's version, which would allow children over 7 to ride unbelted if a vehicle didn't have enough belts for all its young passengers.

"We think if you start teaching kids at a young age that being properly restrained is the right thing to do, they will continue to do so as they grow into adults," he said.

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