Whether Missouri motorists can be stopped simply for not buckling up is very much up in the air. The House has debated the bill for a couple of hours before setting it aside to move on to other legislation during a Wednesday evening session.
Members couldn’t even get to a vote on the first amendment to the primary seat belt bill after more than two hours of debate. Opponents frame the bill as a civil liberties issue. It would allow police officers to pull over motorists simply for not wearing their safety belts. It is against Missouri law not to wear safety belts while driving, but a fine can only be assessed if a motorist is stopped for another traffic offense.
A strategy has been engaged. Rep. Brian Yates (R-Lee’s Summit) is orchestrating opposition, making sure debate is extended on each amendment and, with more than 50 amendments pending that could chew up serious floor time. After the bill had been sent to the sidelines, Yates said, "I think the issue is in serious trouble at this point."
It is clear opponents plan to keep talking until they convince House leadership the bill isn’t worth the floor time. The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Neal St. Onge (R-Ballwin), declined to comment on Wednesday night’s inaction on his bill. Last year the bill failed to get to a vote in the House.
HB 90 will return, likely next week, says Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles). Dempsey says he has no idea whether it will ever come to a vote or whether the votes are there to pass it, stating "It’s too close to call".