After a long debate and a slew of amendments, the Texas Legislature is closer to banning texting while driving. The House passed Rep. Tom Craddick’s bill Wednesday with a vote of 98 to 47.
HB 63 imposes a $100 fine and misdemeanor traffic ticket for drivers caught texting and a $200 fine for repeat offenders. Much of the debate focused around proposed amendments by Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) and Rep. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock).
Rep. Perry argued that texting shouldn’t be the sole reason for pulling over a driver, worrying that it gave too much power to law enforcement. But his amendment ultimately failed.
Dutton stepped up after Perry’s failed amendment with a similar amendment. Dutton argued that if a police officer pulls a driver over for texting while driving, it would ensure that the government is much too involved in the lives of its citizens. And he worried that it could lead to racial profiling.
At this point, representatives continually brought up examples of those who had been directly affected by distracted driving.
After close votes and two recounts, Dutton’s amendment failed as well.
Bills have been proposed in past sessions to prohibit texting while driving with little success.In 2011, the legislature passed HB 242, which banned texting while driving. Governor Perry vetoed the bill on the grounds that it was “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults”.
But over the years, several cities have passed citywide ordinances to ban the use of cell phones. The patchwork of laws regarding cell phone use across the state can often lead to confusion for drivers, said Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) during the debate. “Whatever we do, let’s make it uniform,” he said. “Part of making it understandable is making it consistent.”
The bill now moves on to the Senate for debate.