Spokesman: Abbott has concerns about texting-while-driving ban


Highlights

The governor has until June 18 to sign or veto House Bill 62, or let it become law without his signature.

A spokesman said Abbott wants to prevent texting while driving and dislikes the “patchwork” of local laws.

The proposed statewide law applies to texting and emailing behind the wheel, but some local laws are broader.

The texting-while-driving ban is not quite in the garage yet.

A spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott, who has had House Bill 62 on his desk for several days, gave an equivocal statement Friday about the governor’s intentions for the legislation.

“The governor believes texting while driving has become deadly dangerous and that something must be done about it,” spokesman John Wittman said via email. “One thing Gov. Abbott wanted in a texting-while-driving ban was a preemption of the patchwork quilt of local regulations across the state, and he’s looking forward to digging into the details of HB 62.”

Abbott has until June 18 to either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. The governor normally has just 10 days to act on a bill. But the longer signing period applies to all bills that reached his desk after May 18, and that includes the texting ban. The House made the final vote on HB 62 on Sunday, but it was not officially sent to Abbott until Thursday.

HB 62, carried by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is the culmination of five sessions of effort by one or both of the sponsors. A previous version made it all the way to former Gov. Rick Perry’s desk in 2011, but he rejected it because, he said in a written veto message, it would “micromanage the behavior of adults.”

The bill approved this time concentrates on texting and emailing, not using a hand-held phone for phone calls or in other ways. If Abbott signs it, the bill would prohibit statewide the reading, writing or sending of “electronic messages” via a hand-held phone in a moving car. However, that would not cover using the phone’s global positioning system or music apps, and drivers would have a built-in defense against prosecution if the phone was being used to report a crime or an emergency.

The bill also preempts local ordinances, but only in the case of electronic messages. In those situations, a person cited for sending or reading a text or email would face only the state fine — $25 to $99 for a first offense, up to $200 for subsequent transgressions — and not have to pay a second, local fine.

But Abbott’s concern, based on the Wittman statement, seems to be that local prohibitions against other hand-held uses — most especially talking on the phone while driving — would remain in place for cities that have such an ordinance.

Craddick’s office, which had no comment on the governor’s concerns Friday, said that 44 Texas cities (including Austin) prohibit all use of a hand-held phone in a moving car. Another 60 or so have narrower ordinances in Texas concentrating on texting.

Advocates for HB 62 have said that 46 states and the District of Columbia have laws in places prohibiting texting while driving.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Steve Bannon steps aside, but Ted Cruz picks up 2 primary rivals
Steve Bannon steps aside, but Ted Cruz picks up 2 primary rivals

In October, Steve Bannon, who had left his post as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist to return to the command of Breitbart News, announced that he was declaring war on all Republicans in the Senate who are up for re-election in 2018, with the exception of Ted Cruz, to create a Senate more amenable to Trump’s agenda. But, Bannon&rsquo...
FORECAST: Afternoon cold front to bring breezes, cooler temperatures
FORECAST: Afternoon cold front to bring breezes, cooler temperatures

Saturday forecast for Austin : Enjoy the unseasonably warm day and near-record heat while it lasts because gusty northerly winds of up to 15 to 25 mph and cooler temperatures will follow the arrival of a strong cold front expected to sweep through Central Texas in the afternoon, the National Weather Service says. Forecasters also are monitoring...
Documents: Montana congressman misled investigators after assaulting reporter
Documents: Montana congressman misled investigators after assaulting reporter

A Montana congressman misled investigators about his assault on a reporter the day before he was elected in May, claiming that “liberal media” were “trying to make a story,” the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Saturday, citing audio and documents. U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, told an officer in an audio interview...
Texas residents find mail dumped near sewer drain
Texas residents find mail dumped near sewer drain

Residents in a Texas neighborhood are angry that their mail apparently has been going down the drain. Brenda Tisdale was walking her dogs in a southwest neighborhood in Mesquite when she noticed a few clean, white pieces of paper in a sewer drain, KTVT reported. “I was thinking, ‘that’s where all of our mail has gone,&rsquo...
Mugabe refuses to step down as Zimbabwe’s president
Mugabe refuses to step down as Zimbabwe’s president

Thousands of Zimbabwe residents marched in the streets of Harare on Saturday, demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe, CNN reported. The protests in the capital city occurred days after the 93-year-old president was put under house arrest by the army, which also detained some of his key political allies. Mugabe has been Zimbabwe&rsquo...
More Stories