Thursday, May 27, 2010

Senate Waters Down Cell Phone Legislation

Pennsylvania House Democrats are vowing to un-do changes the Senate recently made to a bill that would ban teen drivers from talking or texting on cell phones while behind the wheel. The Senate amended the House’s bill, and bumped talking or texting down from a primary to a secondary offense.
That means police could not pull a teen driver over for using a hand-held cell phone.
Instead, they’d only be able to issue citations if the driver is stopped for another offense.
Montgomery County Democrat Josh Shapiro, who helped author the initial House bill, says the Senate’s measure won’t accomplish anything.

"We sent them a tough, strong bill that would stop accidents from occurring. And what they’re seeking to send back to us is a bill that just adds a little bit of a fine to a teen driver after they’ve had the accident."

But Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Chester County Republican, says the shift from primary to secondary offense came after a lot of discussion among Senators and staffers and many Senators felt the House bill was too harsh on teen drivers.

"And it got broad bipartisan support – that position in the Senate. It was not a Democrat issue or Republican issue or rural issue or urban issue. It was just a policy position that the majority of the Senate, by a pretty comfortable margin, felt that argument was a valid argument."

Pileggi says there’s a broad consensus in the upper chamber that the statute should seek to educate - and not punish - teen drivers.

Democrat Josh Shapiro says the bill is now toothless, doesn't represent a common sense approach, and House Democrats will re-insert the primary offense language, and send the measure back to the Senate.

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