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m5193 BC-MN-XGR-RoadRules 2ndLd-Writethru 05-06 0338

Senator says he faces unwelcome choice on road safety rules

Eds: UPDATES to reflect comments from Pawlenty’s letter to Murphy.

ST. PAUL (AP) — A top senator claimed Tuesday that he was being forced to choose between three safety features as he prepared a transportation policy bill to send to Gov. Tim Pawlenty — an account the governor called "not helpful."

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said a gubernatorial staffer told him late Monday that his bill could include two of the following three measures: a buckle-up law, restrictions for teen drivers and mandatory booster seats for children. Murphy heads a House-Senate conference committee working on the bill.

"We want this bill to pass," Murphy said. "This bill has the potential of saving anyplace between 40 and 60 lives in Minnesota."

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Pawlenty outlined several objections to the bill in a letter to Murphy that said, "We are disappointed with your continued misstatements. Your press conference this morning was not helpful."

Pawlenty said he wants Murphy to address the concerns House Republicans and Democrats have with the bill, and he recommended allowing parents the choice of opting out of teen driving restrictions.

His letter also said he expects the conference committee to remove "any other problematic provisions identified by MnDOT, DPS or my staff," referring to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety.

Murphy said he would drop the booster seat requirement if forced to choose because the other safety measures would save more lives.

The seat belt law would allow law enforcement to stop and ticket drivers for not buckling up. Now they can give seat belt tickets only when they stop motorists for other probable violations. The teen driving restrictions include a curfew and limits on the number of passengers a new driver can have.

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