April 9, 2013

Maine House rejects bill to ban cellphone use while driving

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The Maine House of Representatives voted down a bill on Tuesday, for the second time in two years, to yank cellphones from the hands of drivers. Legislators also rejected a bill requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets in Maine.

By a 104-38 margin, legislators voted to accept a legislative committee's recommendation to not pass the cellphone ban bill, L.D. 68, sponsored by Rep. Paulette Beaudoin, D-Biddeford. The bill is headed to the Senate for consideration.

It would have banned cellphone use while driving, but exempted many, including law enforcement personnel. A similar bill was rejected by the Legislature in 2011. Maine already bans text-messaging while driving.

The bill encountered little opposition at a public hearing in February, but the committee still rejected it.

"Anything you do while driving, I think, takes away your attention," said Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, at a committee meeting in February. "I don't think there's anything inherently dangerous in talking on a cellphone when you're driving, so having said that, this is a bill I'm not going to support."

Representatives voted 123-21 to kill the bill requiring motorcycle helmets. Current Maine law requires motorcyclists under 18 years old to wear a helmet when driving or riding as a passenger.

“These are areas where big government doesn’t need to be making decisions for people," said House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, in a statement. "One of the nice things about Maine is that we can generally expect some level of personal freedom, and it’s important to preserve that."

Correction: The day these votes were taken is corrected above.

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