Bill would allow tinting for medical conditions

3/4/2014

By ASHLEIGH TIDWELL

By ASHLEIGH TIDWELL

KU Statehouse Wire Service

TOPEKA — Growing up in Southern California, Larry Nordstrom spent much of his time outside in the sun. In the 1950s and '60s, there wasn't much concern about skin protection. People were unaware of the dangerous effects. Sunscreen came in SPF 4 and wore off quickly with sweat and water.

Now at 67 years old, Nordstrom has lived with skin cancer for nearly 20 years. He's had 11 operations to remove cancerous lesions, and eight of those operations were performed on his face, leaving permanent scarring.

Now, Nordstrom must take extra precautions to protect his skin from the harsh sunlight. One of the precautions is to tint the windows of his 1995 Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

In order to drive comfortably in his car, Nordstrom needs to have his windows tinted with 20 percent light transmission tinting. In California, all levels of tinting is legal, but in Kansas that isn't the case. So, when Nordstrom moved to Manhattan in 2006, his vehicle had illegal window tinting.

Kansas law requires window tinting to allow at least 35 percent light transmission. In May 2013, Kansas State University Police stopped Nordstrom for violating the tinting law.

Shortly after being stopped, Nordstrom contacted Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan.

"I found it incredibly unreasonable given my condition," Nordstrom said. "So I decided to be a good citizen and pursue the matter."

Carlin agreed and introduced House Bill 2471, which would change state regulations to allow a medical exemption for those with certain conditions to tint their vehicle windows to 20 percent light transmission.

"There are plenty of people with diseases who need this protection," Carlin said.

"People with skin cancer, lupus and macular degeneration, they all have sensitivities to light."

Carlin noted that at 35 percent light transmission, people are still left vulnerable to the light that gets through, which makes driving painful or uncomfortable. Carlin also noted that Kansas is one of only nine states that do not allow such medical exemptions.

"We need to be able to take care of people's medical disabilities and this is one of them," Carlin said.

Carlin presented the bill to the House Transportation Committee last week, but there were several concerns. According to Carlin, the major concerns come from police officers who are concerned about the safety of darker tinted windows.

"They think of gangs when they see it and that's their concern," Carlin said. "But these people are not gang members."

Carlin's solution to the safety of the officers is to require a medical exemption sticker to be placed on the bumper of the vehicle.

"If an officer sees the sticker on the bumper they would know there is a reason and they wouldn't have to pull them over at all," Carlin said.

Though the medical conditions are real, Carlin is concerned that the fear of safety from the public officials will prevent the bill from making it through committee.

"I understand the concerns," Nordstrom said. "But legislation is all about compromise. The police and the legislators have to find something they can agree on, a middle ground."

Nordstrom is hopeful that this legislation will come through so that people with his conditions can protect themselves.

"Cancer is the enemy here, not us," Nordstrom said. "There has to be something done."

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