By John Cheves – jcheves herald-leader.com
FRANKFORT — The Kentucky House gave final approval Thursday to a ban on text messaging while driving — a measure once thought imperiled for the session — and a second bill that will toughen the drunken driving law.
The House voted 86-10 to approve House Bill 415, a measure that originally dealt with personal-care attendants but was amended by the Senate on Monday to include the texting ban.
The bill would ban texting while driving for everyone and the use of cell phones while driving for those under 18.
The Senate and House each passed their own versions of the texting ban earlier this year but refused to consider the other chamber’s until reaching a last-minute compromise.
“This bill is so important because I am confident it will save lives, the lives of young people across our commonwealth,” said Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, who sponsored the House version of the proposal.
The bill goes to Gov. Steve Beshear, who released a statement saying he will sign it into law. Last year, Beshear issued an executive order banning texting while driving for state employees in state vehicles.
“The texting bill is a common-sense bill to protect all Kentucky drivers. Regardless of whether you personally text while driving, another nearby driver may be distracted by typing out a message,” Beshear said.
Also Thursday, the House voted to toughen the state’s driving under the influence law by passing, for the second time this week, House Bill 265. The House passed the bill on Monday but then nullified that vote after a lawmaker filed a motion for reconsideration.
On Thursday, the House approved it again by a 79-to-15 margin. The bill, as amended by the Senate, would prohibit possession or trafficking in “synthetic cannabinoids,” man-made drugs with high levels of THC, which gives marijuana its natural potency.
The Senate also added a section strengthening the DUI law. Anyone with detectable levels of more than a dozen types of unprescribed drugs in their blood would be presumed guilty of DUI, including amphetamines, cocaine and oxycodone.
Finally, the bill drops from 0.18 to 0.15 the level at which suspects’ blood alcohol becomes an aggravating factor in their cases and mandates jail sentences if they are convicted.
Several House members, including Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, protested that the bill would violate Kentuckians’ constitutional rights by presuming guilt based on the mere presence of drugs in their blood.
HB 265 also proceeds to the governor’s desk.
Filed Under: KY General Assembly