Virginia Senate OKs seat-belt ticket bill

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RICHMOND (AP) — Legislation to allow police to stop and ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt passed the Virginia Senate yesterday.

Under current law, drivers can get a ticket only if an officer stops them for another violation and see that the driver isn’t buckled up. Sen. Patricia S. Ticer’s bill would allow police to stop a driver if anyone in the front seat isn’t wearing a seat belt.

The bill passed on a 22-18 vote. Similar bills have died in the past in a House committee.

Mrs. Ticer, a Democrat, said enacting the law would save Virginia about 71 lives, 1,075 serious injuries and $236 million in costs annually.

Traffic deaths in Virginia last year exceeded 1,000 for the first time since 1990.

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The House overwhelmingly rejected a proposal yesterday to restrict the possession of guns at the Virginia Capitol.

The House voted 77-18 to reject Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr.’s proposed change in House rules. The rule would have prohibited guns only in areas of Capitol Square controlled by the House, which has no say over space controlled by the Senate.

House Republican Leader H. Morgan Griffith said the restrictive jurisdiction was a major flaw in the proposal. He also said that while the proposal exempted police officers, visiting dignitaries would be unable to bring their armed bodyguards.

Mr. Spruill, Chesapeake Democrat, said some people visiting the Capitol earlier this week felt unsafe because gun rights activists were on the grounds carrying their firearms.

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Monday was Martin Luther King Day, so naturally, the Virginia Senate adjourned in honor of — Stonewall Jackson.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, Augusta Republican, made a brief floor speech lauding the Confederate general. He noted that the Senate honors Jackson every year on Jan. 21, the anniversary of Jackson’s birth.

Mr. Hanger also prefaced his speech by reminding his colleagues that King, the slain civil rights leader, was recognized by the Senate the previous week. King’s birthday is Jan. 15, but the official holiday is always the third Monday of January.

Legislators last week also honored Confederate General Robert E. Lee, whose birthday is Jan. 19. Friday was Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday.

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