Texting-and-driving bill stalls in FL Senate

A bill to make texting-while-driving a primary offense is stalled in the state Senate.

"I am hoping it is not going to take a mass casualty before the Senate decides to get on board," said State Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach).

Slosberg, whose own sister was killed in a wreck over a decade ago, says the House expects to pass it this week

Texting-while-driving is currently a secondary offense, meaning it is illegal, but an officer has to stop a driver for another violation first. But she says her bill is being blocked by Senate appropriations chair Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park).

The bill has passed several committees in both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature.  It just needs one more -- Bradley's.

Some lawmakers have expressed concerns about unintended consequences of allowing officers to stop drivers who are texting while driving. One concern is racial profiling.

"I have three sons and I worry about them," said State Rep. Patrick Henry (D-Daytona Beach) during a committee hearing earlier this month. "I worry there will be some bad actors and say my sons were texting."

Others are worried about privacy.

"When I consent to have my phone searched, what exactly is going to be searched?" asked State Rep. Cary Pigman (R-Sebring).

Both of those lawmakers voted for it in committee. 

After six years of seeing texting-while-driving bans fail, Slosberg says the bill now requires police to tell drivers they can decline a phone search. It also requires departments to track the ethnicity of who they pull over.

"I am not going to quit," said Slosberg. "I am going to do everything I can to get this bill passed this session. We are really, really close."

Sen. Bradley has been quoted as saying no final decisions have been made.

It needs to get through his committee to get to the Senate floor, but only two weeks are left this session.

We have not immediately heard back from his office.