Local lawmakers react to proposed NTSB Cell Phone Ban

9:02 PM, Dec 14, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, FL -- Florida is one of only a handful of states that still has no regulation on driving and using the cell phone. Not even texting.

But several local lawmakers say that's our business and not Uncle Sam's.

With accidents mounting and patience waning, the Feds are now pushing for a nationwide ban on using any cell phone or electronic device behind the wheel other than those that are used to support the driving task.

Florida remains one of just nine states without its own law that at least bans texting and driving.

But lawmakers like Rep. Jim Frishe (R) Dist. 54, who represents Pinellas County, say Uncle Sam is supposed to stay out of the state's business.

"It doesn't work that way anymore," said Frishe. "The federal government has become more and more intrusive."

That sentiment is pervasive in Florida's Republican-dominated legislature.

State Senator Jack Latvala, (R) Dist. 16, who admits to talking and driving all the time, used an old NRA refrain about taking people's guns to convey his sentiment about his cell phone.

"You can take it out of my cold dead fingers," said Latvala.

Still, when it comes specifically to the issue of texting and driving the issue is not necessarily a partisan one. At least not in the state of Florida.

In fact, Sen. Nancy Detert, (R) Dist 23, is pushing Florida's senate bill for a texting ban.

Another Republican has introduced an identical bill in the state house.

"It just is loaded with common sense. It's not limiting anyone's personal freedom. It's a safety issue," said Detert.

And yet, even a texting ban concerns state lawmakers like Rep. Jeff Brandes, (R) Dist. 52 from St. Pete.

Specifically, Brandes says when it comes to enforcing the law, there's a potential for invasion of privacy.

"I mean are we now going to ask police officers to get your cell phone and go through your last messages? How do I know if you're just putting in your GPS coordinates or dialing your kids?" 

Some legislators even question the NTSB's authority to pitch political policy, but the agency wields power by controlling hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funding.

So, rejecting any future federal rules could have serious financial consquences for Florida.

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