Lawmakers rush to fix window-tint blunder

Friday, January 11, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lawmakers never intended to make thousands of vehicles with tinted windows illegal last year. But they did just that when they passed a bill restricting the darkness of vehicles' rear windows.

Now, they're rushing to reverse course. Just two days into the 2002 session, a House committee Thursday approved and sent to the full chamber a bill that would undo part of the 2001 law.

Last year's law, which took effect last Aug. 28, was actually intended to allow more tinting of vehicle windows, not less.

Previously, Missourians could only tint the rear and rear-side windows of their vehicles, but could make those tints as dark as they wanted.

The 2001 law allowed tinting of all windows except the windshield -- but limited the blockage to the so-called 35 percent shade, which keeps out 65 percent of light. That made it likely that thousands of cars and trucks with very dark backseat and rear windows would fail inspections.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations endorsed a measure that applies the 35 percent shade rule only to the windshield and the front side windows. The backseat and rear windows could be as dark as desired.

Front side windows could be darker if a person has a prescription from a doctor.

The tinting provision was part of a last-minute bill passed in May to deal with numerous transportation issues. Once officials realized its effect, it was too late to change it, said Rep. Carson Ross, a member of the motor vehicles committee and sponsor of last year's measure.

"It was a total shock to us," said Ross, R-Blue Springs.

Ross said he had hoped lawmakers could fix the mess during last September's special session, but Gov. Bob Holden did not make it part of the agenda.

Ross filed a bill this session to fix the problem by exempting old cars, but on Thursday the committee voted to go with the bill by Rep. Patrick O'Connor, D-Bridgeton, that removes the tinting limit on back windows.

O'Connor's bill also would exempt factory-tinted vehicle windows from the requirements. His proposal contains an emergency clause, which means the bill goes into effect immediately when signed by the governor.

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