Senate Transportation Committee discusses traffic safety diversion programs

Senator Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing) presented legislation today to the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee that would allow cities and counties to resume traffic safety diversion programs put on hold due to an unfavorable recent court decision citing unclear state law – concerns first voiced by State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

The legislation provides clear authorization for the programs to operate; restricts all revenues collected to administration of driver education programming; establishes a process for standardized educational curricula; and requires verifiable participant registration.

“Traffic safety diversion programs offer a beneficial choice both for minor traffic offenders and for local law enforcement agencies,” said Senator Schmit. “The programs provide an opportunity for improved traffic safety through targeted driver education. My bill seeks to clarify state law and chart a course for legitimate traffic safety programs to continue.”

Sen. Schmit has been in close contact with a variety of stakeholder groups, including the Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Sheriffs Association, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and Minnesota County Attorneys Association. Authorization of such traffic safety diversion programs is expected to have strong bipartisan support in both bodies of the Legislature.

“There are a number of sensitive issues involved with this legislation – but a meaningful discussion of this issue is overdue at the Capitol. This Legislature needs to determine whether or not these programs are authorized under law and, if so, move to establish a clear path forward for our local communities and law enforcement agencies. Above all, these programs offer additional choice for our local communities to improve traffic safety at the local level. It’s important we not lose sight of this fact.”

The cities of Lake City, Plainview, Red Wing, and Wabasha, as well as Goodhue and Wabasha counties, suspended their programs and are waiting to see what action the Legislature takes this session. The bill was recommended to pass by the committee and the legislation was sent to the State and Local Government Committee for its next stop in the committee process. For more information on this legislation or any state policy concerns, contact Sen. Schmit at sen.matt.schmit@senate.mn or 651-296-4264.

Senator Matt Schmit
Matt Schmit is from Red Wing and represents District 21 in southeastern Minnesota. He is the vice chair of the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

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