BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana House sidetracked a bill May 6 that would have banned truck drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while driving, according to BusinessWeek.
Rep. Charmaine Stiaes, D-New Orleans, said her husband, a commercial truck driver, asked her to propose the legislation. Stiaes said while she would like the ban to apply to all drivers, her bill would be a good start.
The proposal failed in a 49-41 vote on the House floor. It needed 53 votes to pass. Stiaes said she hopes to bring the bill back to the House floor next week, BusinessWeek reported.
The original version of the legislation applied to only commercial drivers, but was amended in committee to apply everyone on the road. Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, proposed an amendment that made the bill again apply only to truck drivers, and that change passed.
"This amendment makes it a bill that I can probably reluctantly vote for," Arnold said.
Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, opposed the change, favoring a ban that would not single-out truck drivers and would instead apply to everyone.
Meanwhile, a bill with the more sweeping ban sought by Barrow that would prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones, was shelved in the House May 6 after it was amended to making phone use a secondary offense, rather than a primary one. That would mean police couldn't stop drivers just because they see them talking on the phone, reported BusinessWeek.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, declined to take a final vote on the measure after the change was made. Badon could bring the bill back up later.
Six states have banned all drivers from using cell phones while driving, Badon said. He tried to win support by explaining a pot of $94 million in federal money is available for driver education and road repairs to those states that pass total bans on hand-held cell phone use by this summer.
Both Stiaes' and Badon's bills would allow drivers to talk using hands-free devices, reported BusinessWeek.
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