ANNAPOLIS – For a fifth straight year, the Maryland House has killed a proposal that would make it illegal for motorists to use a handheld cell phone while driving.
The perennial cell-phone bill was one of 16 proposals that met what was likely their official demise Wednesday, with sponsors withdrawing their bills or committees reporting unfavorable votes on the measures.
The Environmental Matters Committee reported Wednesday that it had voted the cell-phone bill down Friday, by a vote of 11 to 7. Despite the vote, however, the bill’s supporters said they are optimistic about its future.
“It’s getting a lot more steam, a lot more power,” said Delegate John Arnick, D-Baltimore County. “More people are talking about it, getting involved.”
But Nextel spokesman Chris Doherty hailed the bill’s failure, saying that distracted driver statutes are already being used and “it’s bad law to single out one distraction.”
Doherty said there needs to be a coordinated effort to educate people about distracted driving, not a ban.
“If you’re biting into a quarter-pounder and a big wad of mustard falls, or you’re shaving or putting on your lipstick . . . you’re more at risk,” he said.
But Delegate Adrienne Mandel, D-Montgomery, said a ban is exactly what is needed, and she vowed to bring the measure back next year.
“As long as I’m here, it’s coming back,” said Mandel, who co-sponsored the bill. “We are making incremental progress in informing our colleagues.”
Among the other bills that likely died Wednesday, barring a legislative miracle, were proposals to:
— Allow drivers to unscrew the front license plate on their cars. Maryland currently requires plates on the front and rear of cars, but a bipartisan bill to do away with the front plate was withdrawn after companion legislation died in the Senate.
— Require that hunters keep deer carcasses hidden from other drivers. The bill by Delegate Kenneth Schisler, R-Talbot, would have set a $100 fine for hunters who failed to lift their trucks’ tailgates or otherwise cover their deer when transporting it home from the hunt. Schisler, a hunter, said he withdrew the bill after hearing from hunting groups.
— Let an estate pay for funeral expenses, regardless of the provisions of the will and without an order of the court. The proposal was killed by the Judiciary Committee.
— Ban the burning of unseasoned wood or chemically treated wood in a fireplace that was within 200 feet of another house. Delegate George Owings III, D-Calvert, said he withdrew the proposal after the constituent who requested it failed to show for a hearing on the bill.
— Let sheriffs transfer convicts from county to county, to relieve jail overcrowding, but prohibit the transfer of inmates into Baltimore County’s jail. Delegate William Frank, R-Baltimore County, said he and other backers withdrew the bill because they did not think it would pass.