AUSTIN (KXAN) — Supporters of a statewide ban on texting and driving say they have the votes to pass it through the last major hurdle of the 2017 legislative session, and now they want Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to call it for a vote.
Per the Texas Constitution, the lieutenant governor is president of the Senate and decides whether the upper chamber will vote on a piece of legislation.
House Bill 62 by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, passed the House earlier this year. It is pending in a Senate committee, where a similar bill passed earlier this session. Rep. Craddick tells KXAN Gov. Abbott has put out favorable signs and he expects the chief executive to sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk.
HB 62 would create a $99 fine for the first offense of texting and driving. It would leave it to local jurisdictions to come up with their own way to enforce it. The bill would also allow cities to add on charges and would not supersede local ordinances such as Austin’s “hands-free” initiative. Getting caught driving in Austin with a cellphone in your hand can land you a $500 fine.
After numerous attempts to make it a statewide law, one family who lost a child to texting while driving is hoping this year is the year.
“What is taking so long?” asks Michael Myers, whose daughter died when she was texting while driving back home from college. “This is something that we believe an elected official can put their arms around and make it safe for everybody.” Michael and his daughter, Sierra, watched a statewide ban fall short by one state senator two years ago.
Some people worry the penalty in the proposed law might not be enough to deter people from texting while driving. For example, if you’re caught fishing without a license in Texas, it’ll cost you $115. Driving without a license costs you $2,000.