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Senate OKs option for diversion class for some traffic offenses

ST. PAUL — Local Minnesota governments could allow motorists to take traffic courses instead of receiving tickets under an amendment folded into an overall transportation bill Wednesday.

Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, won the Senate’s approval on a voice vote to allow the so-called “diversion programs” for a year beginning June 1. Governments providing the programs would be required to report back to the Legislature.

“We don’t have a lot of information about these programs,” Schmit said, adding that the report would give lawmakers the chance to make a better-informed decision when the pilot programs end.

Several cities and counties established diversion programs to give motorists stopped for minor traffic violations a chance to take a class. But most local governments stopped the programs after a judge ruled one illegal.

Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said law enforcement officers now have the option of writing a ticket or giving a warning.

“This does give an option to local ... law enforcement to offer a middle-of-the-road program,” Westrom said.

The Schmit provision would require classes to be at least an hour long, with at least half of the class presented by a trained officer in the classroom.

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