A last-minute legislative maneuver derailed a texting & driving ban headed for the desk of Mississippi governor, who had planned to sign it.
Both houses of the Legislature approved texting & driving measures. A conference committee resolved differences over the amount of fines to be paid by offenders, and the House and Senate approved the legislation April 1. It was headed to the governor, who said he looked forward to signing the distracted driving legislation “in hopes of protecting lives on Mississippi roadways.”
State Rep. Bill Denny (pictured, left), however, said he didn’t understand that the measure applied to all drivers. He called for a reconsideration, which killed the bill for the year.
Sponsors and safety advocates reacted with anger to Denny’s tactics.
Lawmakers had said “public pressure” was building on the Legislature to do something about texting. The House has long been considered resistant to distracted driving legislation, with critics calling the House Judiciary Committee (A&B) a “graveyard” for texting bills.
State Rep. Tom Miles, who heads the Transportation Committee, told a reporter that “it’s ridiculous for one person to kill a bill that affects the lives of children and people across the state.”
Denny is a Republican from Jackson.
Under the compromise, the fine for texting & driving in Mississippi would have been $25. Beginning July 1, 2015, the fine would have been $100.
The situation reverse-mirrors recent events in South Dakota, where a texting & driving measure was left for dead by a conference committee but suddenly revived by a second panel and sent to a receptive governor.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety group lists Mississippi as one of the worst in the nation for vehicle laws.