Thursday, May 31, 2007

NH Seat Belt Law Vote Today - UPDATED!

UPDATE: From WMUR (Channel 9 - Manchester):

CONCORD, N.H. -- The Live Free or Die state will stay that way -- at least when it comes to requiring adults to buckle up.

The state Senate voted 16-8 Thursday against a mandatory seat belt law for adults. New Hampshire is the only state without such a law.

One more victory for individual liberty and the freedom of choice.

One more blow to the intrusive, big-government ideology of Senator Burling and his ilk in the Granny State Coalition.

Drinks are on me!

(original post below)

From the Union Leader:

Seatbelt vote appears too close to call

CONCORD – On the eve of a major public policy vote at the State House, a state senator yesterday called on Gov. John Lynch to take a stand on legislation that would mandate the use of seatbelts for all drivers.

The governor's spokesman said Lynch remains undecided and is "talking to lawmakers and a lot of other people" about it.

A chief proponent of mandated seatbelt use, state Sen. Peter Burling, D-Cornish, said he expects a "close to losing" vote today on House Bill 802.

Republican Sen. Jack Barnes of Raymond, who opposes the bill, called on Lynch to state his opinion on the bill, but Burling declined to do so.

"This is fundamentally a legislative fight," Burling said, calling it "the interface between the way politics are played in this state and what I regard as common sense public health."

Rule #1: If a politician (especially a politician with Peter Burling's pedigree) uses the phrase "common sense", while arguing in favor of the expansion of the powers of the government, bad things are going to happen to you if he gets his way.

"It's hard to imagine how some of the major political institutions in this state, including the Union Leader, can really believe themselves when they set up the 'live free or die' argument versus the clear public benefit of dramatically reduced death and $48 million annual savings to the state budget in reduced Medicare and Medicaid expenditures," Burling said.

Burling admitted he is not optimistic about today's vote.

"There is a sense of sadness that lives will be lost and horrifying injuries will be incurred because as a culture, we continue to sort of accept the irrationality of the argument that it's my right to do something profoundly irresponsible," he said. "It's nuts."

The bill, which passed the House 153-140 on April 4, would make failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense, which allows a police officer to stop and ticket anyone for not wearing one, or any driver who carries unbelted passengers. A first offense carries a $50 fine, while a second offense would cost $100.'s "for the children". Uh-huh.

The 24-member Senate has 14 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Most, but not all Democrats, favor the bill. Manchester Democratic Sens. Lou D'Allesandro and Betsi DiVries have stated their opposition. Senate Republican Leader Ted Gatsas, also of Manchester, said this week he is unaware of any Republicans who support it.

Lynch has not said how he feels about the bill. Spokesman Colin Manning said the governor is undecided and "speaking to lawmakers about it." Republican Barnes said he finds Lynch's non-position strange given that the seatbelt debate has been on the political radar screen in New Hampshire for many years and has sparked widespread attention.

Barnes said he voted to mandate that people wear seatbelts up to 18 years of age, but will not support a blanket mandate.

"I hear that I'm going to be joined by many of my colleagues," he said. "And I hear in the (State House) hallway that our governor does not want any part of this bill on his desk. And I'm feeling that many of my colleagues do not want to send it to his desk.

I hope you're right, Jack. I hope you're right.

"I'm very surprised that the governor hasn't become involved in this. He has been very silent," Barnes noted.

D'Allesandro said it is "common sense" to wear a seatbelt, but it should not be mandated.

Predicting a "close vote," D'Allesandro said, "our law enforcement people have their hands full doing that what they do well, protecting people. We don't have enough police to go after the crime today. They are understaffed, and adding this responsibility I think would be inappropriate."

D'Allesandro said he doesn't necessarily believe that seatbelt use is lower in New Hampshire than other states.

At a hearing last week, the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency said two surveys show the state at 64 percent usage, as compared to 16 percent 22 years ago.

Nationally, seatbelt mandates produce usage of close to 90 percent.

"Statistics don't lie, but liars can fabricate statistics," D'Allesandro said.

Sen. Bob Odell, R-Lempster, also said he will oppose the bill.

"We may be the last state in the country (not to require seatbelts for all drivers and passengers), but I think that people here have good judgment, and that there should be an education program.

"My grandchildren are more likely to harass me if I don't have it on than any police officer" said Odell.

Burling said that if the bill passes, "people will start wearing seatbelts at a 90 percent, rather than a 60 percent rate."

News Flash: That's how a police state functions. The oppressive government encats laws, and the people, having been stripped of their will to act as responsible individuals, all follow along and do what they're told. Failure to act in accordance with the laws laid out by the government becomes a criminal act, with violators subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

Forgive me, Peter, if I don't share in this Utopian pipedream of yours, that you're trying so desperately to bring to fruition for the good people of New Hampshire.

Translated: Go fuck yourself.

At a news conference Tuesday, a group called the Seatbelts for All Coalition, pointed out that 77 percent of those who died in car crashes in New Hampshire last year were not buckled. Coalition officials say that as many as 10 lives could be saved each year The group comprises 19 lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth, Maggie Hassan of Exeter and Harold Janeway of Webster.

It also includes a host of interest groups, including the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Police Association, the state hospital association and medical society.

This next piece sums it all up quite nicely.

Personal restraint: Will NH erase individual liberty?

New Hampshire is the last state in the union to allow its adult citizens the freedom to decide for themselves whether to wear a seat belt while on the public roads. Some call this a terrible negligence on the part of the state, which should protect the people from their own poor judgment. On the contrary, it is a reflection of the wisdom of New Hampshire's people.

Granite Staters always have been fiercely proud of their independence. They concede power to government only when absolutely necessary. So as a rule, regulations that restrict the behavior of citizens are reserved for those acts that violate the rights of others.

That is why we have no motorcycle helmet law. It would protect people from themselves only, not from others. The same goes for House Bill 802, which would mandate adult seat belt use. It would protect no one but the individual who chooses to leave his seat belt dangling by his side. As foolish a decision as that may be, it is his, not the state's, to make.

It is fitting that a seat belt is also known as a "personal restraint" device. One definition of "restraint" is "a deprivation of liberty." If New Hampshire passes HB 802, it will doubly deprive Granite Staters of their liberty.

When the state crosses that line and begins protecting adults from themselves, the people have lost their authority over the state. At once, there is no decision the state may not make regarding an individual's personal behavior. The people have conceded that power, and it is no longer theirs.

New Hampshire remains the "live free or die" state, and its people take that motto very seriously. Start telling them how to live their lives, and they will start telling you exactly where you can go.

Lawmakers considering voting for HB 802, pending in the Senate today, are forewarned. Vote for that bill and you vote against New Hampshire's most cherished value: individual liberty. It is a value the people still hold dear, and they are sure to show that in the next election.