Senate committee passes booster seat bill for first time; chairman says he will “urge” floor vote

03/11/2015 12:15 PM

FRANKFORT — Legislation raising booster seat requirements may reach Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk after the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed the measure Wednesday.

The bill, House Bill 315, has been among Beshear’s priorities for years, and for Rep. Steve Riggs, Wednesday’s vote represented a culmination of five years’ work for the House.

HB 315 would mandate children younger than 8 and shorter than 57 inches ride in booster seats, increases of a year and 7 inches, respectively. Advocates say seat belts would fit better on children under the proposal.

“This is the farthest it’s ever been and this is the fifth attempt,” Riggs, D-Louisville, told reporters after the hearing, noting Wednesday marked the first Senate committee vote on the issue. “This is the first time I’ve tried it, so I think that it stands a real good chance of passing the Senate.”

HB 315 was placed in the Senate’s consent agenda, meaning the bill could be passed without debate on the floor.

Riggs, however, said he’d rather have the topic publicized in a floor debate. Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, has indicated he would like to argue for the new booster seat requirements from the Senate floor, Riggs said.

Sen. Ernie Harris, chairman of the transportation panel, said he expects the measure to pass, although a vote “may not be unanimous” like Wednesday’s committee hearing. HB 315 could come to a floor vote when lawmakers return from the veto recess March 23, he said.

“Of all the bills that have come before my committee, you know some of them aren’t going to be voted on, but this will be one that I’m going to urge leadership to allow a vote on,” Harris, R-Prospect, told reporters.

Policymakers recognize inadequacies in the state’s current booster seat laws, he said, and Illinois is the only state bordering Kentucky without nearly identical requirements for booster seat use, making uniformity a factor.

“There’s more of us that realize the law as it was adopted a few years ago is not working to protect our children,” he said. “That plus the fact that six of our seven states have a law similar to the one we just passed, so a parent in Kentucky driving across the border to one of those six states would be in violation of their laws unknowingly, and we don’t want that.”

One of those children who could have been helped by higher booster seat standards, Lexington police officer Brandon Muravchick, said he still suffers from the effects of a horrific car crash that hospitalized him for three months at age 8 in 1989.

The seat belt “kept me from being ejected from the vehicle,” he said, but he underwent his 10th surgery because of the wreck in 2012. He displayed images of the mangled car and his stay in the hospital while addressing the committee.

“I’m still having issues from this back 25 years ago, so it’s just very important that the seat belt fits properly and the booster seat does that,” Muravchick said in his testimony. “It just allows those forces of that crash to be put through the right parts of the body.”


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