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Statewide Texting And Driving Ban Headed To Governor's Desk

March 13, 2014, 4:15 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Statewide Texting And Driving Ban Headed To Governor's Desk

A statewide texting while driving ban is heading to the governor's desk.

State lawmakers passed a bill after a conference committee found common ground on the issue Thursday.

The bill that came into that committee would have allowed officers to pull someone over for simply texting behind the wheel. Violators could have paid up to $500 and cities and counties would not have been able to have their own distracted driving laws.

But those all changed. Committee members amended texting and driving to a secondary offense with a $100 fine.

"I think that's a very fair compromise. We've had different versions of this penalty from a petty offense to a misdemeanor with different financial aspects or penalties involved, and I think this is a compromise and step in the right direction," Sen. Mark Kirkeby, R-Rapid City, said.

Lawmakers also dropped a section of the bill that would have prohibited cities and counties from having their own distracted driving laws. But they didn't specify that they can either, leaving the issue to fall back on existing state law.

Some argue existing law allows local government that freedom. Others argue it doesn't.

Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, chaired the committee. He says he wasn't sure what to expect with the bill leading up to the meeting.

"It was still being negotiated just minutes before we entered the conference committee this morning," Hoffman said.

Hoffman says there was also talk of having staggered fines that increase after each offense but that idea didn't make the final cut.

Committee members representing both parties from both chambers voiced their support for the final version.

"I come at this as a true compromise between all the bills that have been out there this year for the people of South Dakota," Rep. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said.

"I think when you elevate this as an issue of public safety that you're doing a good service for the people of South Dakota," Sen. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, said.

Hoffman says some lawmakers aren't happy with the final product but adds they can change the law in the future if needed.

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