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After delays, distracted driving bill could be back next week

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A vote in the Alabama House of Representatives on a bill to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones and other devices was delayed this week.

Bill sponsor Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, said a “snafu” in the drafting of the bill caused the holdup. Sponsors had intended to draft a bill modeled on Georgia’s hands-free bill, but legislative staff copied an older version of Georgia’s distracted driving law. Brown wanted to move forward with that bill and add amendments later.

“I’d rather have a weak bill to start with than no bill,” he told The Anniston Star this week.

That didn’t satisfy other supporters of the bill, Brown said.

Brown said he expected a substitute bill to be ready in time for a vote next week.

State law already prohibits the act of texting while driving, but House Bill 404 supporters say an outright ban on holding electronic communication devices will be more enforceable for police. The bill doubles the fines for breaking the law. First-time violators would pay $50 and receive two points on their license, which could cause their insurance costs to rise. Second time violators would be fined $100 plus another two points, and third time violators would pay a $150 and get three points.

The legislation was originally sponsored by Rep. Allen Farley, R-Birmingham, but without explanation last month he tabled his bill and said Brown should carry it instead.

A Senate version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, has not yet been approved in committee.

State House leaders have said this legislative session could end in two to three weeks.

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