TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – News 6's push to drive change continues as two important bills to end distracted driving take their next steps in the capital.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee Tuesday heard two important bills aimed at ending distracted driving, with the House passing House Bill 107. The Senate was poised to consider the bills Wednesday, but decided to table the discussion.
While both bills would make texting and driving a primary offense, there are differences between House Bill 107 and Senate Bill 76.
[RELATED: How to contact Central Florida elected officials | Timeline: News 6 Driving Change]
HB 107, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, would among other things, take texting and driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense. As a secondary offense, police can only pull a driver over for texting and driving if the officer or deputy witnesses the driver breaking another law. As a primary offense, police would be able to pull a driver over just for the act of texting and driving. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, goes even further when it comes to safety behind the wheel, mandating that drivers use only hands-free devices.
News 6 anchor Matt Austin has stood beside lawmakers and testified before them multiple times to push for legislation since he was badly injured in a 2016 crash in which the other driver admitted to texting behind the wheel.
Austin and News 6 have since been committed to continuing the station's Driving Change initiative and making the roads safer for everyone in the Sunshine State.
Last year, a House bill to strengthen the state’s distracted driving law was approved by the full House, but had no companion bill because the Senate version died in committee. This year, a new host of leaders in both the House and the Senate is determined to see change with a new plan of action. House Speaker Jose Oliva told News 6 in February he wanted the bill to focus on all distractions, not just cellphones.
Both bills were read Tuesday during special order meetings.
During the first meeting, Simpson read the Senate bill in front of the full chamber and there were no amendments or objections. The bill was then rolled over for a Third Reading and is ready to be voted on by the full Senate.
A reading Tuesday afternoon for the companion bill in the House led to its passing.
The bill was initially on the House special order calendar but, at the request of Toledo, was temporarily shelved at 2:15 p.m. It was unshelved around 3 p.m. and debated for about 30 minutes.
After the debate, Slosberg asked that the rules be waived and the bill be voted on by the full House chamber. For the next hour, lawmakers' concerns focused primarily on using the ability to pull someone over for texting behind the wheel as a way of racial profiling.
Around 4:20 p.m., the bill passed with a 104-9 vote.
Where does this leave us?
HB 107 has passed through all of its committees, readings and a full vote by the House.
SB 76 has passed through all of its committees and all of its readings. It' s unclear when it will be up for a full vote in the Senate.
All eyes are now on the Senate to see what they will do with companion bill SB 76.
The bills eventually need to match up before being sent to the governor's desk.
Follow our push to drive change on News 6 and ClickOrlando.com/DrivingChange.