Shawn O’Donnell, K3HI, EMA State Government Liaison writes:
On Monday, June 28, the Senate Long-Term Debt and Capital Expenditures Committee passed a transportation bond bill, H4771, that includes a provision to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. This bill does not appear to be a direct threat to mobile amateur operation, but we should keep an eye on the bill to make sure it isn’t amended to make things worse.
The bill bans the use of hand-held cell phones, only. Cell phone use with a headset will still be legal, and the bill says nothing about two-way radio systems.
Last year, several House committees approved a cell phone ban in bill H3919, but that bill has been stuck in the House Ways & Means committee since last July.
H4771 now goes to the Senate Ways & Means Committee for review. This bill originated in the House and is undergoing review in the Senate, so it is still a few steps away from becoming law. See the “Ham’s guide to legislation” at http://www.userstudy.com/ARRL/Guide_to_MA_legislation.pdf . We’re currently in the “Three readings” stage in the Senate, in the middle row of the diagram.
The cell phone ban, along with a primary-enforcement seat belt law, were attached to a finance bill by the Long Term Debt committee. Given the controversial nature of the seat belt and cell phone laws, it is possible that either or both provisions will be eliminated from the bill as it passes through other committees. Also, the House will have to approve the amendments, since it passed a different version of the bill.
The provision attached to H4771 uses the same language as H3919 (typos and all,) minus the passage in H3919 that would have made it illegal for junior drivers to use any type of cell phone.
For more information, including text of the bill and tips on contacting your representatives on Beacon Hill, visit http://sgl.ema.arrl.org/.
Shawn O’Donnell K3HI
ARRL EMASS State Government Liaison