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Booster seats booted out Minn. panel drops rule after Pawlenty objects

ST. PAUL -- Pawlenty administration officials and legislators paved over a pothole that prevented agreement on highway safety issues Wednesday, but a transportation bill containing those issues faces a likely rough road today when representatives debate a strict seatbelt provision.

A House-Senate conference committee retrieved a bill it earlier had approved so that it could remove a provision that troubled Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- a requirement that all children and motor vehicle passengers up to age 8 use child restraint systems. The governor said the requirement went beyond what the government should do.

"The bill in its current forum is ill-considered and will be vetoed," he wrote to key transportation lawmakers Wednesday.

During a hastily called meeting, a split panel approved removing the child-restraint provision. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor had not reviewed the new bill, so could not comment on whether it would be signed into law.

Two of the three safety measures in the original bill survived -- provisions that restrict a driver in the first months of holding a driver's license and a measure allowing law enforcement officers to stop vehicles when someone is not wearing a seatbelt. Now, officers can write tickets when a belt is not worn but cannot stop a vehicle for a belt violation.

That seatbelt issue should produce lively discussions when it reaches the full House, probably today.

"That's because of Iron Rangers and the Democratic Party as much as anything," Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFLBrooklyn Park, said.

Rural members in particular oppose the safety mandates.

Rep. Frank Moe, DFLBemidji, said lawmakers should approve measures to improve road safety, "but when it comes to micromanaging people who are driving cars, we have to trust citizens a little bit."

"It will be Dem on Dem violence," Moe said about how Democrats will handle the debate.

Pawlenty also said the requirement for boosters seats went too far.

"If grandma were picking up her 7-year-old granddaughter and three friends from a soccer game, in response to a last-minute request from a parent, would the grandma be required to have booster seats for all four children?" Pawlenty asked. "I hope you see my point about legislative overreach." Waging a debate

Supporters of raising the minimum wage thought they had a deal with the Pawlenty administration on a higher minimum wage, but Wednesday heard the governor doesn't like the negotiated deal and could veto it.

The House-Senate conference committee report is due on the House and Senate floors soon. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said he is willing to open up negotiations again, but not for just any issue. He insists waiters, waitresses and others receiving tips be under the same minimum wage as others; Pawlenty and many Republicans want a lower minimum wage for them because they also receive tips.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the bill, as it stands, would be vetoed.

Cell research advances

The House voted 71-62 to approve University of Minnesota research on some stem cells obtained from embryos.

The bill would allow research on excess embryos created for reproduction, but no longer needed. Permission would have to be given before the research could be conducted.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.