By a vote of 129-43, representatives sent to the Senate House Bill 279 that raises the age for car seats from 4 and imposes a $100 fine for a second offense.
"You've got before you a bill that was precisely drawn to deal with the maximum number of deaths for these young children and the maximum number of injuries," said House Motor Vehicles Chairman Tom Rice, R-Norcross.
Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, said many cars today have adjustable seat belts that make them as safe as an approved car seat or booster seat. He warned that the bill would make criminals of parents even if their child were killed in an accident caused by another driver.
"We're exposing parents ... to criminal responsibility," he said.
Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, told Setzler that courts would not assign criminal liability to parents for an accident caused by someone else.
Rep. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, admitted he had a hard time making up his mind as a conservative reluctant to impose new regulations but also as a physician concerned with safety. He told his colleagues that he finally came around to thinking about the impact on taxpayers to cover the costs of uninsured children injured while not secured in a car wreck.
"This bill will save money," he said.
Many of those voting against the bill were freshmen elected in last year's wave of tea party conservatives. But veteran Human Services Chairwoman Penny Houston objected to the way some of them characterized the bill as shifting Georgia into the role of a "nanny state" intent on making minor decisions for its citizens.
"I'm emotional about this. I'm emotional about people saying this is a nanny bill," said Houston, R-Nashville.