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Statement of Governor Sonny Perdue Regarding the Child Safety Restraint Bill

Friday, May 14, 2004  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


ATLANTA, GA - Governor Sonny Perdue issued the following statement today regarding HB 217 upon signing it into law:

"Mary and I have dedicated this Administration to children, our most precious resource.  We have successfully enacted education reforms that will remove bureaucratic impediments to the learning process.  We have protected children from those who would seek to harm them - physically and intentionally.  We have stiffened penalties applied to those individuals who would produce illicit, volatile drugs in front of minors.  We have started a comprehensive reform of the child welfare system. And we have given foster parents a substantial voice in the care and eventual adoption of those children in State custody.

"At first blush, House Bill 217 would seem to fall into that same category of caring for, nurturing, and educating our children.  HB 217 mandates that every driver of a motor vehicle who transports a child under the age of six must secure that child in a proper restraining device and do so in the back seat. 

"However, HB 217 compels me to contemplate a different and more complex question related to children - at what point does the State usurp total parental responsibility for the upbringing of a child? 

"On its face, the legislation seems like a logical, safety-conscious step in protecting our children from serious injury or death as a result of an automobile accident.  Indeed, the evidence supports that claim.  According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, five-year-old children are especially vulnerable while riding in a motor vehicle because they are not at the appropriate height and weight to be secured properly by a vehicle's regular safety belt restraint system. 

"If a parent chooses to place a five-year-old (or, for that matter, a child aged six, seven, or even eight) in a booster seat, then that parent has every right to do so regardless of my action on HB 217.  Nevertheless, when weighing the merits of this bill, one question continually returned to my mind: When did we supplant the common sense and personal responsibility of an individual parent with government oversight and statutory regulation?

"This bill reflects a disturbing trend.  We have entered an age when few of us seem to want to keep government out of our personal affairs and responsibilities.  Many people seem to prefer, often tacitly, various types of compulsory "security," as if government could guarantee the safety of anyone by the stroke of a governor's pen.  While I deeply believe that that one of the primary functions of any government is the protection of citizens, I suffer no illusions that the founders envisioned the role of government would be to protect us from ourselves. 

"My sincere question - and the reason I have wrestled with my ultimate decision on this bill - is: "What next?" 

"In the end, I will sign House Bill 217, because I believe that lives can and will be saved.  But at what expense?  We must remember that along with unalienable right of life come liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"I also wish to put the Members of the General Assembly on notice.  I will strongly scrutinize any further legislation that displaces the role of the parent with a governmental mandate."