House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo is balking at state Senate and Corner Office calls to bar drivers from using cellphones or other hand-held devices, saying he’s heard a range of concerns, including fears of minorities being targeted in stops.
DeLeo said he plans to huddle with his chairman on the Legislature’s transportation committee, but he said he’s long heard a “couple of the issues” in the House, where a similar measure died last session after clearing the Senate.
“People were concerned about who’s getting stopped, especially for some folks in the minority community for … cellphone use,” DeLeo told reporters yesterday.
He said he’s also “consistently” heard concerns about people being able to afford technology that makes it easier for hands-free driving.
Gov. Charlie Baker shifted gears on Tuesday and now says he’s backing the ban, and called on lawmakers to get a bill to his desk by next summer. The state Senate has already passed a measure imposing $100 fines on those caught using a phone while behind the wheel and up to $500 for repeat offenders.
Every other New England state, as well as New York, have similar laws barring drivers from using electronic hand-held devices.
Baker’s comments marked a shift from earlier this year, when in February he sounded skeptical in a radio interview about not “making it possible for people to talk to other people when they’re driving.”
He argued Tuesday that “technology has moved dramatically over the course of the past several years.”
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