By Jack Siebold, MyTown Editor
It looks as if a head-on crash was avoided in the South Dakota Legislature Thursday morning. The House Transportation Committee pulled the Senate version of a texting and driving ban off of the road, sending it to the 41st Legislative Day in an 8-4 vote.
This leaves just the House version chugging down the road. If House Bill 1177 survives a final full Senate vote, it will make texting while driving a secondary offense with a $25 fine. The bill also stops municipalities and counties from enacting their own distracted driver ordinances.
The Senate version (Senate Bill 179) would have made the fine $100 and still allowed some local control. Those differences were a problem for committee members, who decided the House bill was the better of the two.
Commercial driver cell phone ban
In a related issue, the committee passed to the floor Senate Bill 13, banning the use of cell phones while driving a commercial vehicle; making it a serious traffic violation
The state has to pass this bill simply because South Dakota needs federal highway funds. The federal government could withhold about $11 million a year in highway funds if South Dakota doesn't comply with federal law. It is the same tactic the federal government used to get states to come in line with federal laws on drinking and driving, seat belts and speed limits.
Representatives were not happy about having their arms twisted but in the end, they know what side of their bread the butter is on, passing the bill on to the floor for a final vote.