House committee votes down bill banning use of hand-held cell phones

Date: May 17, 2011

House committee votes down bill banning use of hand-held cell phones

BATON ROUGE -- A House committee today detoured a bill that would have banned the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers and allowed police to write violations only if the vehicles were stopped for another offense.

The Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works voted 8-5 against House Bill 337 by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans. The bill is dead for the session unless he can find a way to revive it as an amendment to a related bill.

Rep. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, D-New Orleans, has House Bill 338 assigned to the committee. Her bill would allow police to write tickets if they see a driver talking on a cell phone, similar to a bill the committee approved last year.

Badon said he was at a loss to explain why the same committee would have killed a weaker bill that would have relegated the use of a hand-held cell phone by a driver this year to a secondary offense when it approved his bill last year that allowed police to stop drivers they saw talking of the devices.

That bill died on the House floor.

"The stronger bill got out for the last two years as a primary offense," Badon said. "This could be election-year politics. I am very disappointed."

He said the vote does not bode well for Stiaes' bill, which authorizes police officers to stop anyone they see using a hand-held device while driving. Stiaes' bill was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday but she asked that it not be heard at the outset of the meeting, hours before Badon's measure was defeated.

Badon's bill would have allowed the use of hands-free telephones or hand-held phones that could be used as a speaker-telephone device.

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