A local legislator wants to hike the fines for not wearing a seat belt in Tennessee. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, is sponsoring a bill to increase the cost of a first- offense violation from $10 to $50, with a second violation going from $20 to $75.
The additional money from the fines is slated to go to programs that help children and state vocational services.
Shipley’s legislation calls for $20 of the fine to go to the Court Appointed Special Advocate program. Another $10 would go to Exchange Club Family Centers and the remaining portion of the hiked fines is earmarked to be used by the Tennessee Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The NET News Service reported last week that the state’s Fiscal Review Office estimates the bill could generate more than $2.5 million in new state revenues. Of that amount, $1.1 million would go to CASA, which provides advocates for abused or neglected children in court cases.
Local officials say the funds collected from increased seat belt fines would fill a great need. Area judges say there are not enough CASA advocates to meet a growing caseload.
CASA served more than 5,400 children in Tennessee last year.
The mission of CASA volunteers is to see that every child is placed in a safe and stable home. It is a very important task, and one that well-trained CASA volunteers have been performing locally since 1985.
It’s because of the work they do that many children have gone from abuse and neglect to safe and nurturing homes.
As we’ve said in this space many times before, case workers from the state Department of Children’s Services are often so buried under cases that they find themselves unable to devote the kind of time they would like to the children they serve.
CASA is a cost-effective approach to dealing with children who may be at risk. It costs more than $16,000 a year to keep a child in foster care as opposed to the $43,000 it costs for the state to deal with a delinquent child.
Tell us what you think. Should the fine for not wearing a seat belt be raised?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.
We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.