Bans on texting while driving
In the past year, I have read many articles on the dangers of texting while driving. Have states begun to prohibit this dangerous activity?
Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws banning texting while driving, according to Melissa Savage, a transportation expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states and the district have also banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone.
Florida has done neither.
In recent years, all states have at least considered laws dealing with distracted driving. Many safety groups have urged a nationwide ban on using any handheld mobile devices while driving.
It's estimated that more than 220 million people in the United States have wireless services, and up to 80 percent of them use their phones while driving, according to Michelle Blackston, director of Media and Public Affairs for the NCSL.
While specific numbers tying cell phone use to car crashes are scarce, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says nearly 80 percent of vehicle crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes in 2006 involved some form of driver inattention. One of the main causes of drivers not paying attention is cell phone use.
What's next for health care bills
Now that health care bills have passed both the House and Senate — albeit with major differences — everyone is talking about the so-called reconciliation process. How does this work, and have there been any major pieces of legislation that have passed both the House and Senate, only to die during the reconciliation process?
"Reconciliation" is a process used to pass budget bills. In the case of health care, Democrats chose not to use that approach, which would have stopped Republicans from mounting a filibuster but also would have limited what the bill could contain and exposed it to other challenges.
Usually, when the House and Senate pass different versions of a bill, a bipartisan conference committee, with members from both chambers, tries to find a compromise. Democrats are also bypassing this approach, which would have given Senate Republicans three shots at filibustering.
Instead, the White House and the top Democrats in the House and Senate will try to negotiate a compromise, which would need to win a majority of votes in the House and would only have to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate one time.
There have been times when the House and Senate have passed separate bills and a compromise from the conference committee has failed. In 2003, for example, Senate Democrats filibustered a compromise on a Republican-written energy bill because of language that immunized makers of a recently banned gasoline additive from lawsuits. A similar bill became law two years later.