Committee votes against Md. car cell phone bill

February 15, 2001

Committee votes against Md. car cell phone bill

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland motorists will continue to be able to use their cell phones as they drive.

A House of Delegates Committee voted Thursday to kill legislation banning the use of hand-held phones while driving.

The bill's sound 7-to-14 defeat prompted one local lawmaker to withdrawal his bill, which was aimed at addressing another driver distraction - pets.

"It's just going to be fruitless and I've got more important things to do," said Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington.

Bartlett introduced a bill last week to require pet owners to restrain their animals so they don't obstruct the driver's vision.

But Bartlett figured if members of the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee weren't going to tackle the cell phone distraction, they wouldn't regulate pets.


Committee Chairman Del. John F. Wood Jr. said with so many distractions in the car it wouldn't help to ban just one.

"If you're going to take away one, you have to take away them all," said Wood, D-Calvert/St. Mary's.

Del. John S. Arnick, who has been trying for three years to restrict cell phone use, urged his fellow committee members to vote for his bill. The bill was modified to permit 911 calls and to delay effectiveness until 2004 to give people time to buy hands-free equipment.

"You've got 10,000 pounds of steel going down the road at 70 mph, you should have both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road," said Arnick, D-Baltimore.

Two local lawmakers who serve on the committee voted against the cell phone bill and said they would have voted against Bartlett's pet restraint bill as well.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, questioned why a conservative Republican who favors limited government would introduce such a bill.

"I think state government has gone too far. I have never been a supporter of Big Brother looking over your shoulder," said Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

Bartlett said he introduced the pet restraint bill after complaints from constituents, who said they were run off the road by someone with a dog in their lap.

Another reason Bartlett decided to give up on the bill was because he couldn't get commitments from professionals who had agreed to testify.

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