It was a landslide victory in the House last night for the
opponents of mandatory seat belts.
The vote was 76-76.
Sure, a few arms twisted here and there and the vote may be
turned around as early as next week, but for one day anyway, the seat-belt Nazis were turned back.
And after the vote was over, those tools of the insurance
industry had the gall to accuse their opponents of "fear-mongering."
That's a good one -- from the pro-seat belt crowd that
claims they do everything "for the children." They mutter darkly about un-seat-belted "human projectiles" hurtling
through the front windshield, the cost of caring for paraplegics, and trot out ex-state cops to harrumph about how
they "never unbuckled a dead man."
"I detect the slight odor of money here," Rep. Jim Fagan
(D-Taunton) said on the floor of the House yesterday. "And the other smell is the stench from this hideous, foul, stinking
In case you haven't been following it, this S. 1211 would
have -- and may yet -- allow cops to stop you for the sin of not wearing a seat belt.
In cop lingo, it's called "primary enforcement."
When they first made it a violation not to be wear a seat
belt in your car, they said they would never, ever enact primary enforcement.
Now they're doing it.
They said they're doing it for the children. They're doing
it for the insurance companies.
Last year the bill didn't come up until the end of the
session, and Fagan, House Minority Leader Fran Marini and a few others would have been able to run out the clock. As it turns
out, they didn't have to, because the bill narrowly went down, 78-71.
This year, the mandatory seat-belt bill reaches the House
floor on May 29. The session doesn't end until around Thanksgiving. Not even Fagan can talk that long. So the skids
But somehow the opponents of mandatory seat belts won,
despite the support of Mister Speaker, Tommy Finneran. It appears he didn't twist arms -- this time. Reconsideration may
be something else again, but as Massachusetts motorists, we have to be grateful for small favors.
This S. 1211 was filed by, among others, Sens. Jim Jajuga
and Brian Lees and Rep. Tim Toomey. Jajuga is a former state cop. Old habits die hard.
As for Toomey, he's from the People's Republic of Cambridge.
And I believed you, Tim, when you said that it will never be
a surchargeable offense.
But that was then, and this is now.
And we also trust you that the $25 fine will never, ever be
jacked up like it has been for every other moving violation.
So Jajuga and Toomey can't help themselves. But what's up
with Lees? He's a Republican, the Senate minority leader in fact. Lees' theory must be, If you can't beat 'em, join
By the way, this seat-belt bill went through the Senate on a
voice vote. That means there was no roll call. So if you see your state senator and ask him how he voted, he can tell you
... whatever you want to hear.
Everyone agrees, seat belts save lives. But why do the cops
need to be writing you up for not doing something that's good for you, personally?
"They want to save lives?" Fagan said. "We could save a lot
more lives by not letting anybody drive after, say, 9 o'clock at night."
But if you tell these solons that you're doing it for the
children, they roll over on their backs like puppies and wait for an insurance-industry lobbyist to come over and scratch
their tummies and give them a treat -- a treat they have to report to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Last night the House did nothing. It was a victory for
democracy, at least for one week.