Legislation targets pets in drivers' laps

Legislation targets pets in drivers' laps

March 9th, 2011 by Andy Sher in News

NASHVILLE - Tennessee motorists would risk getting ticketed for letting pets sit in their laps while driving under a local lawmaker's bill that passed the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said his bill was intended to curb accidents, citing the story of a Nashville traffic fatality related to him by a former legislative secretary.

"One of her best friends was killed and the animal she was with was killed," Cobb said. "She was trying to maintain the dog while it was crawling around the vehicle."

Earlier, Cobb had Transportation Committee members amend the bill, which originally would have required any animal riding in the front portion of a vehicle be restrained by a harness, box, crate or passenger.

Cobb called the original version "ridiculous," saying the bill as drafted went too far.

Earlier, Rep. John Tidwell, D-New Johnsonville, said he thought the bill even with the amendment was over-reaching.

"I guess you know I'm the most rural of all of us up here, and a couple of things I've never done politically is vote against dogs and against children," he said.

It was then that Cobb related the story of the woman who had been killed. The bill was approved on a voice vote and now goes to the House Budget Subcommittee.

In other committee action, a bill sponsored by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, that would let the state Transportation Department sell advertising on its HELP trucks ran into extensive questions from another Hamilton County lawmaker and was delayed.

Using wrecker services as an example, Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, said smaller companies could be put at an economic disadvantage. He noted "those vehicles belong to the taxpayers and also 6.3 million Tennessee people."

Dean said his bill is based on a Georgia law that appears to have worked without complaints. It would also raise $1 million in revenue for the department, he said. Dean told Floyd he would postpone the bill for several weeks.