Abbott opposes texting ban

The Associated Press reports (the Corpus Christi Caller-Times had it first, but it is paywalled) that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, would veto a proposed ban on texting-while-driving. As many will recall, Governor Rick Perry vetoed such a bill in 2011, and in 2013 the bill languished in the Legislature and never made it to his desk. Perry claimed that educational campaigns were preferable to changing the law and that it amounted to governmental micromanaging of one’s life. Indeed, Abbott has taken up the same point of view.

In 2011, both Houses of the Legislature passed the bill –which would have made it a moving violation citation (Class C misdemeanor) to send ANY type of communication from your cell phone while it is in motion, including not only texting, but email, messaging and any type of general internet usage– by supermajorities, veto-proof margins. However, because the Legislature adjourned before Perry could offer a final adjudication on the matter, his veto could not be overridden. The bill was heralded in the Legislature, of all people, by State Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland County), a firebrand Republican who once served as Speaker of the House. He introduced the bill in 2013, where it was passed by a supermajority, though no vote was ever taken in the Senate.

A call to Craddick’s office was not immediately returned, though sources speculate that he –or one of his allies on the matter– will once again introduce legislation to  this effect in the 84th Legislature next year. One said ally is State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee for Governor, who has both co-sponsored such legislation in the past and vehemently supported it. A statement from Davis’ campaign confirms that, if she is elected Governor, she would gladly sign such a bill that would ban texting while driving.

“Senator Davis believes that it is imperative that we take the proper and necessary steps to limit distracted driving to ensure the safety of our citizens both on and off the road,” a spokesperson said on Davis’ behalf.

The City of Houston began debating a local ordinance to ban texting while driving last year, but it has largely remained dormant ever since. I talked to Mayor Annise Parker about this last summer, and she told me that it was her intention to build up awareness on the issue before changing the law. I know she teamed up with Bun B to create a PSA against texting while driving, and has started a limited bus stop-poster campaign downtown (Full disclosure: My deputy Sophia, who currently leads the Houston Mayor’s Youth Council, also made a humorous video on the subject), but there does not seem to be much happening recently on the matter.

Hopefully, the realization that a Statewide ban is out of grasp for the foreseeable future will be enough for Parker to act.

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