AUSTIN (KXAN) — Former Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill back in 2011 and it never made it out of committee last session. Gov. Greg Abbott originally said on the campaign trail he didn’t support a ban, but there is momentum building this session for the bill to finally become law.
Here in Austin police are beginning to enforce the new hands free ordinance, giving out fines up to $500 in the hopes to get phones out of drivers’ hands.
At the Capitol, families lobbied Tuesday for an outright ban on texting and driving while holding pictures of loved ones who became victims.
“It was the day my daughter didn’t make it to school,” said Jeanne Brown as she describes what it is like to lose a child. The law would be named the Alex Brown Memorial Act, after Jeanne Brown’s daughter, who died while texting and driving in 2009.
Police officers, doctors, and the powerful lobby AT&T, teamed up with scores of lawmakers to urge action.
“(To make sure) once it reaches the governor’s desk that it get’s his signature,” said Rep. Byron Cook. Other lawmakers repeated a call for the governor to not veto the legislation.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini places this bill’s importance in stark terms. “The most important thing we do is decide who lives, and who dies.”
She says unlike in years past, the governor has not been actively fighting the idea.
“Oh it makes me very hopeful, very hopeful,” said Zaffirini.
Abbott called any speculation about the bill “premature” because it is not yet on his desk.
“One thing I’m strongly supportive of is safety on the road, we don’t want people driving and hurting other people,” the governor said. “We don’t want people texting and driving. But we need to find a way to do it without too much government intrusion.”
Public opinion appears to be embracing the texting while driving ban. A USA KXAN Poll asked Texans “should texting while driving be legal or illegal?” Eighty-five percent said texting and driving should be against the law. Just eight percent of the people thought it should be legal.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 44 states now have a texting while driving ban.
The Alex Brown Memorial Act would impose a fine of up to $100 for a first time offender, and up to $200 for repeat offenders.