Eye On Boise

House panel passes texting ban on unanimous vote, backs amendment

Sen. Jim Hammond, in his closing comments on SB 1274, the bill to ban texting while driving, told the House Transportation Committee that he's in full support of a proposed amendment to the bill drafted by committee Vice Chair Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, to remove a law-enforcement exemption; it's not needed, he said, as the bill is only about use of hand-held electronic devices, and police and emergency workers don't use those to text on the job. "Is it a feel-good law?" Hammond asked. "If we can save the lives of some of our youths, and that feels good, then yeah, I guess this is a feel-good law."

Among those testifying in favor of the bill today have been teens, a bicycle/pedestrian advocate, law enforcement, an insurance representative, and the lobbyist for AAA of Idaho, Dave Carlson, who told the committee that from 2008 to 2010, 192 people died in distracted-driving crashes on Idaho roads, "nearly 30 percent of all crashes." His organization commissioned a survey that found "nearly nine in 10 Idaho voters" support a law banning texting while driving. "In this case, we believe the law can make a difference," he said.

Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper, moved to send the bill to the House's amending order for the purpose of making Ellsworth's amendment. "I think we should strike that out," he said of the law-enforcement exemption. House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, speaking in favor of the motion, joked amid laughter, "This also plays into a saying that there has never been a Senate bill that wasn't improved by a House amendment." The motion then passed on a unanimous voice vote.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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