This year's attempt to ban texting while driving met a swift and unceremonious demise in the South Dakota Legislature.

Last year's texting-while-driving ban was one of the most discussed bills of the session as it made its way through the state Senate before being defeated in a House of Representatives committee.

This year, proponents tried to overcome the House hurdle first - and had no better luck.

"It's not a terrible surprise," said Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, and one of the most vocal proponents of a ban on texting while driving in the Legislature. "Some of the same legislators that were vehemently opposed last year were vehemently opposed this year. I heard the same tired arguments."

A wide array of speakers testified in favor of banning texting while driving, including representatives of the state medical association, the state trucking association and Verizon Wireless.

"The issue of texting while driving puts two fundamental ideas in opposition to each other - individual liberty and public safety," said Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. "I submit that texting while driving is one of those activities that is inherently unsafe and must be sanctioned and prohibited by our society. Public safety should trump the freedom of the individual in this area."

There was no opposition testimony against the texting while driving ban, House Bill 1129, during its hearing before the House State Affairs Committee.

It turned out to not be necessary. More than enough opposition to the bill was already on the committee, where it wasn't even close.

"I don't think passing this piece of legislation will make any difference," said Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood. "The intent is good, but the bill is flawed."

Multiple lawmakers criticized singling out just texting while driving, while not trying to ban other distracting activities like talking on a cell phone or surfing the Internet on a mobile device.

"If a bill was brought forward to prohibit texting and cell phone and makeup and eating and etc., I'd be for it," said Rep. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls. "We all know why they single out texting. Nobody has the nerve to single out cell phones, because that covers everybody."

The bill was voted down 10-3.

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Tieszen said a texting ban just wasn't going to pass the current composition of the House of Representatives, but he might try again once that changes.

"We may have to wait until we have a new Legislature after a new election," Tieszen said.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or



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