N.Y. legislator snubs mom of texting fatality

david-gantt-new york assemblyThe chairman of the Transportation Committee in New York’s Assembly has been previously cited as an impediment to texting and handheld cell phone bans for drivers. Now, the gloves are off.

(Published on: May 21, 2009. Update: Gantt’s driver safety bill that includes a ban on New York State text messaging while driving cleared the Assembly on June 17 and was sent to the Senate.)

Assemblyman David Gantt infuriated some legislators Tuesday as he refused to meet with the mother whose son died as he was texting and driving. Kelly Cline was in Albany to lobby for a bill that would ban text messaging behind the wheel. She was told she could only meet with Gantt’s staff.

“It’s amazing . . . to hear about a chairman who doesn’t meet with people, since I am a chairman and I meet with everybody,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, whose distracted-driving legislation efforts have been thwarted by the Gantt’s committee for several years.

Ortiz said Gantt’s resistance was “the biggest trouble now. He’s holding the bill.” Both Ortiz and Gantt are Democrats. Ganntt declined to comment to the Buffalo News in a story about the text messaging legislation.

Gantt has long been under fire for stalling other New York driver-safety legislation. A father whose teen daughter died in a drag-racing crash said: “We need to let people know who is standing in the way, like Gantt.” The New York Times called for his replacement over opposition to red-light cameras.

Ortiz said the committee could be forced into voting on the current text messaging legislation (A2453) “because we’re getting tired of the same song and the same music” from Gantt.

Gantt, not one to shy from confrontation, was arrested last year in a public ruckus over selection of a Monroe County public defender.

The Buffalo News headlined an editorial about Gantt: “Imbecilic, Inhumane, Incredible.” The opinion piece said Gantt “is nothing if not predictable in his utter illogic when it comes to certain pieces of legislation that have already gained widespread support. … Now he has the dubious distinction of being the single member of the Assembly to put a halt to legislation banning text messaging while driving. ”

New York has outlawed handheld cell phones for drivers, but text messaging was not an issue in 2001, when that law was enacted. Numerous New York cities and counties banned text messaging while driving — or are considering bans — because of the curious inactivity in Albany.

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