Lawmakers announce surprise agreement on distracted driving legislation

Last updated: 11-18-2019

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Lawmakers announce surprise agreement on distracted driving legislation

After several years and failed attempts, Massachusetts lawmakers have taken a major step toward enacting a law to restrict the use of handheld electronic devices by drivers. State Rep. Bill Straus and state Sen. Joe Boncore issued a statement late Friday announcing the six-member conference committee had reached an agreement on the bill, although they did not reveal the text of the final compromise. "The new legislation will restrict the use of hand-held cellphones while operating a motor vehicle and update existing law regarding racial profiling by law enforcement," the statement said. Straus and Boncore, as chairs of the conference committee, have signed their final report and said it was being circulated for signatures from the other members. According to the statement, Straus and Boncore expect the final language of the compromise to be released after it is filed with the House Clerk on Monday. At least 18 other states have outlawed using handheld devices while driving, including all of the states which border Massachusetts. Similar legislation in Massachusetts has stalled in past years. This year, the conference committee began working in June to find a compromise between underlying bills passed by both branches of the legislature.In July, the conference committee appeared to have reached an impasse after Senate negotiators refused to sign off on details that House lawmakers thought had been resolved. At that time, Straus and Boncore had announced an "agreement in principle," but it vanished within hours as the two sides debated wording of the bill. Both the House and the Senate are now expected to take votes on the compromise next week.It is expected to pass and arrive on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk by the end of the week, sources told NewsCenter 5. Lawmakers in both branches have a deadline of Wednesday to conclude all formal business for 2019.

After several years and failed attempts, Massachusetts lawmakers have taken a major step toward enacting a law to restrict the use of handheld electronic devices by drivers.

State Rep. Bill Straus and state Sen. Joe Boncore issued a statement late Friday announcing the six-member conference committee had reached an agreement on the bill, although they did not reveal the text of the final compromise.

"The new legislation will restrict the use of hand-held cellphones while operating a motor vehicle and update existing law regarding racial profiling by law enforcement," the statement said.

Straus and Boncore, as chairs of the conference committee, have signed their final report and said it was being circulated for signatures from the other members. According to the statement, Straus and Boncore expect the final language of the compromise to be released after it is filed with the House Clerk on Monday.

At least 18 other states have outlawed using handheld devices while driving, including all of the states which border Massachusetts.

Similar legislation in Massachusetts has stalled in past years.

This year, the conference committee began working in June to find a compromise between underlying bills passed by both branches of the legislature.

In July, the conference committee appeared to have reached an impasse after Senate negotiators refused to sign off on details that House lawmakers thought had been resolved. At that time, Straus and Boncore had announced an "agreement in principle," but it vanished within hours as the two sides debated wording of the bill.

Both the House and the Senate are now expected to take votes on the compromise next week.

It is expected to pass and arrive on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk by the end of the week, sources told NewsCenter 5.

Lawmakers in both branches have a deadline of Wednesday to conclude all formal business for 2019.


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