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Tennessee State Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Clepper enters an ID and works up a report after making a surprise safety inspection at the Monteagle weigh station on I-24 East on October 1, 2015. Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Rep. Dan Howell
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NASHVILLE -- Tennessee representatives on Monday night quickly approved a "slowpoke" bill aimed at slow-moving motorists who dawdle in passing lanes on interstates and divided highways with three or more lanes in a single direction.

The House voted 69-13 for the bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown. After a short debate, the bill kicked into high gear and shot through the chamber.

It all happened in less than five minutes.

"This bill simply designates the far left lane of all three-lane interstate-type roads in Tennessee as passing lanes. Drivers cannot continuously drive in the far left lane and impede the normal flow of traffic," Howell told colleagues.

Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, told colleagues he lives some 300 miles away from the state Capitol in Nashville.

"I absolutely love this bill," Lundberg said.

His only question was why the bill's application is being restricted solely to interstates and divided highways with at least three lanes of traffic headed in one direction.

Howell, who noted 29 other states have similar laws, said, "We thought it would be good to try this as a pilot."

Violators would be subject to a Class C misdemeanor and a $50 penalty if they choose not to contest a ticket or if a judge finds them guilty.

But the Senate companion bill, scheduled to be heard Monday in the upper chamber's Transportation Committee, was delayed until next week.

The misdemeanor provision and the clear indication the bill soon would rocket through the House chamber drew questions from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, who asked if the bill had only gone through the House Transportation Committee and not one of the judiciary committees.

Moments before, Clemmons saw his own bill, which sought to make it a Class C misdemeanor for motorists veering into a bike lane in most instances, re-referred by majority Republicans from the House floor to the Criminal Justice Committee.

Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, cautioned that because Howell's "Slow Poke Law" is a Class C misdemeanor motorists could face an increase in their insurance if they acknowledge their guilt or are found guilty by a judge.

Howell said he was "fortunate to have a lot of support in the House on that bill, bipartisan support, Democrats and Republicans both voted for it. I'm glad that it passed. It's interesting, I was coming down on the elevator and one of the female legislators said she took a picture of me when I was in the [House] well and sent it to her husband who loved my bill and he texted back and said, 'That's my hero.'"

"The ultimate goal is to create more safety on the highways, decrease congestion and driver frustration," Howell added. "That's what we're trying to do."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com, 615-255-0550 or follow via Twitter at AndySher1.

This story was updated March 7 at 11: 45 p.m. with additional information, edits.

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