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Amendment could doom texting bill

The House on Wednesday voted 110-6 to pass a bill to restrict texting while driving, but the legislation faces an uphill battle if it's going to become law.

On Tuesday, after much emotional debate, the House approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, that would allow cellphone records to be used as evidence only in the "event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury."

The question now is whether the Senate will approve the amended version. If the Senate rejects this amended version and makes changes, the bill (SB 52) would have to go back to the House to be approved, and its chances of being heard again and approved by the time the session ends Friday are growing dim.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Reps. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota. Detert has been trying to get a ban on the books for four years.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, told the Florida Current on Tuesday that the House amendment doesn't kill the bill, but he indicated that he doesn't like it.

"I think the bill, as we sent it from the Senate, is a good bill," Gaetz said.

The proposal makes texting while driving a secondary offense. That means a motorist would have to commit another violation, such as careless driving, in order to be pulled over. Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the infraction and one for texting.

Teacher pay tweaked

The House and the Senate tweaked the language on teacher pay raises Wednesday, meaning educators won't have to wait until June 2014 for their payouts. The revised language also gives school boards the flexibility to develop their own merit-based systems for awarding salary increases. "We all knew that the original language wouldn't work," said Jeff Wright, who oversees public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association. "It took teachers, superintendents and the governor weighing in for us to make that point."

No lobbying by Scott

Five Republican senators who voted to defeat the "parent trigger" bill said Gov. Rick Scott did not lobby them to oppose the controversial legislation. There has been much speculation in the Capitol that Scott was instrumental in the bill's failure on a 20-20 vote. Not true, Republican senators said. "I wouldn't say there was any direct contact from his office on his opinion on this," said Sen. Detert, who was a leader of the anti-trigger forces. "There were rumors that he'd just as soon not have it on his desk, (but) it really doesn't make any difference because this was going to be the outcome whether he wanted it or not."

Times/Herald staff writers Steve Bousquet and Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report.

Amendment could doom texting bill 05/01/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 8:32pm]
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