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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Bill Tracker: SB 154 & HB 201 - No Mobile Phones While Driving

These two bills seek to expand criminal conduct of motorists in Texas. SB 154 and HB 201 would make it illegal to use a hand held wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle unless it's stopped. The bills, however, do allow drivers to use "hands-free devices." The bills carve out further emergency exceptions when it is okay to talk and drive. HB 201 goes further by setting the fine structure at $25 and up for the offense.

I recently went to visit my brother in California. We had lunch outdoors in perfect weather. All I could focus on was the fact that almost every single person driving by was on the phone. If these bills became the law in California, the municipalities would see kind of windfall Forbes predicted from a flat tax.

Other states, cities, and countries have already said enough is enough. New York, New Jersey, Japan, and Britain are just a few of the places where driving and talking are not permitted. Several lawmakers are even focusing on young drivers.

The key to the issue is whether the driver is distracted. When asked about this issue, Jeff Neilson, Executive Director of Verizon Communications, remarked, "We believe that our customers can make the best decisions for themselves about how to be most responsible. We don't see laws that specifically ban people from eating a Big Mac while driving so we would not support a total ban."

I see a Big Mac amendment coming to the Senate floor soon.

Whitworth and Menendez need

Whitworth and Menendez need to review Oklahoma's SB-676 on the same subject. Unless corrected SB154 and HB201 will harm the public safety efforts of Amateur Radio.

SB 154 Was Amended April 26

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee heard testimony on Wednesday regarding Senate Bill 154, a bill proposed by Sen. Wentworth to make it an offense to operate a wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle. Amateur Radio operators testified on Wednesday that the bill was too broad in scope and would include licensed services such as Amateur Radio and would limit the functionality of a number of other licensed mobile radio services.

The committee agreed and held another session Thursday morning, where amendment number one basically states that "It is an exception if the operator is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a wireless device or two-way radio." In other words, if this passes into law, you better be carrying your FCC license with you if you're operating mobile.

The audio from the session can be heard by clicking on the related link at the bottom (RealAudio required). Look for the discussion on this bill at 1:15 on the audio track.

Matthew Hinman

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