One of the hot-button issues for legislators during the 2010 legislative session was a proposal to ban texting while driving in the state. The final version of the bill, which was introduced in the House less than a week ago and then amended by the Senate Monday afternoon, was killed in a procedural maneuver initiated by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle.
The initial bill passed by the House called for those convicted of driving while texting to be assessed a $50 fine, plus court costs, for the first infraction and a $100 fine, plus court costs, for each subsequent infraction. Offenders would also accumulate points with the Idaho Transportation Department that could lead to a forfeiture of driving privileges. The Senate beefed up the penalties by adding an amendment that would have charged offenders with a misdemeanor if they caused damage. That would have meant a possible 90-day jail stay accompanied by a fine of up to $500.
When the amended bill came back to the House, Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, tried to kill it by asking members not to concur with changes made by the Senate. Both Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, and Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, moved to defeat Kren's motion. Kren said that because the Senate version included a misdemeanor, he didn't feel comfortable with it. He added that the original bill was "good middle ground" between an earlier version of the texting bill, which originated in the Senate and would have made all texting while driving a misdemeanor, and the House version, which had infractions as the penalty for texting.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, sided with Kren and said that Idaho already has laws to deal with inattentive driving.
"We are trying to pass feel good legislation here," said Labrador.
Kren's motion to not concur with the Senate amendments was eventually defeated. Then, later in session proceeding, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, asked House members for consent to suspend rules to fast-track the texting ban and bring it up for an immediate vote, to which Labrador objected. Moyle then placed a motion of the same nature, which requires two-thirds approval by the body to pass. Moyle's motion failed on a vote of 37-30 and the texting ban died as House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, adjourned the House for the final time in 2010 barring a call for a special session to deal with budget issues.
Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who authored the original texting ban, said more lawmakers voted for the texting ban, in one form or another, than voted against it. "We'll take a look at it again next year," he said.