North Dakota Legislature: House approves ban on driving while texting
BISMARCK - A bill that bans texting while driving in North Dakota passed the state House on Tuesday. The bill, which includes a $100 fine for a violation, passed 50-41. It now goes to the Senate. The House Transportation Committee deadlocked over...
BISMARCK - A bill that bans texting while driving in North Dakota passed the state House on Tuesday.
The bill, which includes a $100 fine for a violation, passed 50-41. It now goes to the Senate.
The House Transportation Committee deadlocked over the bill last week. Several committee members wanted to pass an overall distracted driving bill instead.
But the distracted driving bill failed on the floor with a 47-44 vote; three members were absent. The bill needed 48 yes votes to pass.
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said texting may be the primary concern of people now, but future technology could change that. He supported the distracted driving bill, saying the texting bill focuses on just one form of distracted driving.
Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, said the city of Grand Forks had these same discussions before it implemented its texting while driving ban.
He said it was clear the public felt a texting ban was needed.
"Texting is inherently dangerous, not only to the people who are doing it, but to everybody else on the road," Glassheim said. "That's the reason we make laws related to driving, is to protect innocent people from what somebody else is doing."
Some legislators were concerned about the $100 fine in the bill for a violation.
A first offense also means 2 points against a license, while a second offense would be worth 4 points. A third or subsequent violation would result in a suspended license for a year.
Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, said he disagreed with losing a license for a year without an opportunity to earn it back.
The ban's ability to be enforced and whether people follow current bans was also discussed.
Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown, said he supported the bill. He told his fellow lawmakers to think about how the average voter back home would want them to vote.
Now that the bill will move to the Senate, the Senate Transportation Committee will have its own hearing on the matter.
Chairman Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, said it's premature to say what action his committee may take on the bill. He said they will keep an open mind and see what people have to say.
The House defeated a bill that would have raised the income eligibility to qualify for the state's children's health insurance program.
Bill supporters wanted to change eligibility from 160 percent of the poverty level to 250 percent. A family of four making up to $35,280 per year is now eligible. Under the proposal, a family of four making up to $55,125 per year would be eligible.
Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, said the qualifications are based on net income after certain deductions, not gross income. There are concerns that by raising the eligibility limit to 250 percent people who can afford insurance would be allowed in the state program, he said.
"People that are making $80,000 a year do not need a government-subsidized health insurance policy for their kids," he said. "Those below that 160 percent mark do."
Rep. Rick Holman, D-Mayville, said raising the level would cover 1,300 to 1,400 more children, and other states have higher limits than North Dakota.
"This is about providing quality health care for children. It's not about their parents," he said. "We're not covering the parents. We're covering the children, and I ask for your support for the children of North Dakota."
The bill failed on a 25-67 vote.
State waltz fails
The state Senate killed a bill that would have made "Dancing Dakota" the official North Dakota waltz.
Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, defended the bill.
"We're asking you to make music and dance part of our official history," she said.
The bill failed on a 14-32 vote.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.