SB 28 vetoed in California

sb 28 lawmakerCalifornia’s governor has vetoed a plan to double fines for distracted driving violations, saying he was not interested in “ratcheting up the penalties as prescribed by this bill.”

The legislation was Senate Bill 28, approved by the state House and Senate, and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 15.

The bill’s author, Sen. Joe Simitian, said the veto resulted in “a lost opportunity to save more lives.”

Brown wrote in his veto message: “For people of ordinary means, current fines and penalty assessments should be sufficient deterrent.”

Under the Simitian plan, fines for using handheld cell phones or text messaging while driving would have increased to $50 (first offense) and $100.

In addition, a point would have been charged against the driver’s license on second and subsequent offenses. A first offense would have cost violators about $310 after court costs. Repeat offenses would have hit $528, plus the point.

The distracted driving law revisions also would have extended prohibitions against hands-free electronic device use to bicyclists.

Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said he would “review the governor’s veto message to see if there is any room for compromise in the coming year (2012).” No wiggle room was apparent in Brown’s short rejection of SB 28.

Simitian’s SB 28 was a reprise of his 2010 plan to more than double fines for distracted driving violations. That plan failed to cleared the Legislature, and the senator rewrote the legislation. The points provision also was watered down during SB 28’s journey through the 2011 Legislature in order to make it more palatable to lawmakers.

“I’m disappointed,” Simitian said in a post-veto press release, “but the governor gets the last word. I understand and accept that. My job now is to figure out where do we go from here.”

Simitian has been the point person on California’s distracted driving laws, among the earliest and most comprehensive in the nation.

Of his attempts to toughen the laws, Simitian said: “While the numbers show that compliance is good and that California’s hands-free law is working, we can do better and save even more lives,” said Simitian, following the bill’s passage.

Brown said: “I certainly support discouraging cell phone use while driving a car, but not ratcheting up the penalties as prescribed by this bill.”

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