Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
FILE - Rep Christine Watkins, R-Price, and other representatives applaud at the close of the legislative session of the Utah State Legislature in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 8, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would repeal the requirement to have automobile registration papers present in the vehicle failed to advance past a legislative committee Wednesday.

HB161, sponsored by Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Price, failed to advance in the House Transportation Committee, with lawmakers voting 5-5 to send the bill to the full House for more debate.

"It would be nice to have one more thing off the books,” Watkins said.

Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich made a case to the committee for keeping the law as it is, saying if there are no registration papers present, officers would have to go back to their vehicles to run the license plate. If there is something wrong with the plate, the officer would have to go back again and check the VIN number.

Mollie Davis, of the Libertas Institute, said the fee is "significant."

“This bill just makes it so people can't be charged with a hefty amount for not carrying (registration papers)," Davis said.

Fines range from about $50 to $100, officials said, depending on the law enforcement agency.

Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, said she doesn't believe people should be fined $100 for not having registration in their vehicles.

Joni Beals, grass-roots director for Americans for Prosperity, said the bill would "afford cops time to focus on real crimes,” and eliminating the fine would "help the least among us.”

Several lawmakers expressed sympathy with the ease of removing the registration requirement but were still concerned at the extra burden placed upon peace officers.

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"I want to embrace the clean glove box movement," said Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, but if the vehicle were stolen or if a law were recently broken and the plates don't match, the peace officer's "only recourse" is to check the VIN on the dashboard.

"There's a level of risk with that," Fawson said, adding that the level of inconvenience caused by the registration requirement was not enough to put an officer's life in danger.

"The safety of our officers is preeminent," added Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, adding that the registration requirement is a way to mitigate the risk of bodily harm for the officers.