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House briefs: Distracted driving bill fails

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill that would have prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones and other electronic devices while driving failed to pass the House by one vote on Tuesday.   

The final vote on the bill was 47-48 with four members abstaining.

House Bill 90 is sponsored by Rep. K. L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, who has championed the bill for multiple years saying it is meant to help save lives.

The bill allowed for a person to contact emergency services if needed and exempted certain first responders and utility workers who may need to use their devices for work.

Brown proposed allowing drivers to use headphones or mount their devices on their dashboard and use voice commands to use their devices while driving.

An amendment was brought by Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, that would have also prohibited driving while drowsy, eating or drinking while driving, applying makeup or having an animal on your lap while driving.

The amendment eventually failed but Kiel said “in the end you cannot legislate safe driving.”

Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, supports the idea of making driving safer but said he is concerned that the law will be used to racial profile drivers.

“In some communities, we have more issues than other communities when it comes to being pulled over by the police,” Bracy said. “If we can limit that interaction, we would be better off.”

The bill also required law enforcement agencies to maintain statistical information on all traffic stops made, including stops made on “minority groups,” and will report that data to the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency on a monthly basis.

Rep. AJ McCampbell, D-Demopolis, said he is concerned that the law could lead to people losing their driver’s license if found to be violating the law multiple times.

“To me we are creating criminals out of something that we shouldn’t be doing it to,” McCampbell said.

House passes CA prohibiting legislative changes within six months of elections

A bill that would require any future legislation related to the conduct of general elections be passed at least six months prior to the election passed the House on Tuesday.

It’s a constitutional amendment that, if passed by the Senate, would be on the ballot for the 2022 general election. 

House Bill 388 is sponsored by Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills, who said it is meant to prevent possible future lawsuits against the state.

“This is to make sure we don’t have any slip ups and any challenges of any elections in the future,” Carns said.  

The bill passed along party lines with a final vote of 75-24. A motion to cut short debate on the bill was also passed along party lines with a vote of 72-26.

Carns said his bill would not prevent the governor from making executive orders that change election procedures like the changes in absentee voting that occurred for the 2020 election.   

Multiple Democrats spoke against the bill, saying they thought it was unnecessary. Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, asked why six months was chosen for the bill.

“The pandemic has shown us that we have to adapt pretty quickly, so why should we box ourselves into six months?” Howard said.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said the bill was simply a strategy to get more Republican voters in the 2022 election.

“It’s a good draw to getting people to the polls,” Hall said.



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