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KEATING veto denounced by lawmaker

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A state senator criticized Gov. Frank Keating Thursday for vetoing a bill to prohibit officers from handcuffing or arresting violators of the state's seat belt law.

Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, said his bill was necessary because such an arrest was once made in Texas.

``He's moved us one step closer to a police state,'' Shurden said.

John Cox, Keating's press secretary, said the Texas case was an anomaly and that he had never heard of such an arrest in Oklahoma.

Cox said Keating's veto was unrelated to the seat belt issue. He vetoed the bill because it also contained unclear language dealing with the training requirements for the State Capitol Patrol and because of inadequate funding to implement proposed uniform and equipment changes within the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Cox said.

Ruling on the Texas case earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police can arrest and handcuff people for minor traffic offenses. A police officer saw Gail Atwater as endangering her children and ordered her to jail.

Under Oklahoma law, a motorist can be fined $20 for not wearing a seat belt and $32 for not having a child in a safety restraint.

Capt. Gerald Davidson of the OHP said most minor traffic offenders are released after signing a citation and promising to appear in court on the charges. Davidson said an arrest could occur if an individual does not sign the citation.

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