AFTER five years of frustration by the measure's supporters, the House finally approved a bill that allows police officers to pull someone over for not wearing a seatbelt.
But in losing the vote 55-44, opponents moved to the larger debate over what the role of government of a free people should be.
"Mountaineers are always free until a politician decides that you're not," said Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, during the floor debate.
Butler is a conservative, but liberals also have reservations about the intrusiveness of some proposals, Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, told the Associated Press.
"While sometimes it can be a sort of partisan debate up there, sometimes you'll have the most conservative and most liberal members of the committee both questioning a similar issue in the bill," Lane said.
"I appreciate that, and I think that creates a better byproduct, when there is that interest in how far does this go? How far should this go? Is this really the right policy for our citizens and for the state? And is it going to move us forward or is it going to hold us back?"
The debate is ancient.
Are ordinary people dummies whose every activity must be controlled by government? Or are ordinary people sensible creatures who should be left as free as possible, and to whom government should report?
The Founding Fathers had the truly revolutionary thought that the latter was true. The United States was founded on that principle.
Should the state ban milk that is not pasteurized? Lane argued in committee that over a 14-year period, in the 30 states that allow the sale of raw milk, only 202 people went to the hospital.
"I think we can make this decision on our own," Lane said.
Government has its place. But as government grows, liberty shrinks.
As Delegate Don Perdue noted, the tension between security and liberty "is a very old debate."
It's reassuring that it still is debated today.