Topeka Overcoming criticism that it was well-intentioned but misguided, a bill permitting law enforcement officers to ticket motorists who leave young children alone in cars won Senate approval Thursday.
The vote was 22-18, and supporters predicted it would prevent some deaths and injuries but, just as importantly, educate parents about the dangers of leaving children unattended.
However, critics said the bill was too broad or interfered too much in family life.
"It's a noble but ultimately misguided attempt to legislate common sense," said Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson.
The House approved the bill earlier this month, along with another measure to require more young children to ride in booster seats. Senators also passed the booster seat bill Thursday, 36-4.
Both bills returned to the House for consideration of changes made in the Senate. House members can either accept those changes, sending the measures to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, or request negotiations over the final wording.
The booster-seat proposal is backed by Sebelius, law enforcement agencies, public health officials and child welfare advocates. The Senate approved such legislation in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, only to see it die in the House, where some members worried about government intruding into family life.
A similar concern marked the debate over the new bill dealing with unattended children, which would make it a misdemeanor for any licensed driver to leave a child under 9 in a car unless at least one other person 13 or older was present.
Someone who violated the law could be fined $25 for a first offense. The fine for a second offense within three years would be $250 to $500.
"I don't need a $25 education on how to keep my kids safe," said Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe. "We don't need this bill."