Capitol wrap-up: Week of Feb. 23


House hears legislation on texting and driving

A panel of state representatives made its case last week to expand Missouri’s ban on texting while driving.

The lawmakers, three democrats from St. Louis, are all sponsoring legislation this session to extend the existing ban — which only targets drivers under 21 — to cover all motorists, mostly out of concern for increased adoption of cell phones by older drivers.

State Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, one of the involved legislators, said on the House floor that while the ban would be cumbersome at first, drivers would quickly get used to the idea — or pay up the $20.50 fine for texting. He compared it to seat belt legislation that passed through as early as 1985.

“We were all victims, at one time, of not wanting and rebelling against wearing seat belts,” English said. “I was one of those, and now it just becomes a habit, and I think it’s time that we do something to stop at least one death if not 3,000 next year.”

Criticism came from House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who questioned how officers could reliably judge if drivers were texting or, Schatz theorized, using other phone services like navigation.

Senate passes federal gun nullification legislation

In a show of opposition to federal gun regulation, the Missouri Senate last week passed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” to nullify Washington gun control legislation.

The act, the predecessor of which was shot down last year by Gov. Jay Nixon, would make federal agents’ enforcement of the nullified laws punishable by up to one year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. It was passed 23-10 in a vote that followed party lines, and it will go on to a hearing in the House later this session.

The legislation, seen as largely symbolic by proponents, is already illegal based on federal court precedents. Similar laws in other states were also shot down by court rulings, though Missouri republicans, like the bill’s sponsor State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, say it is meant to send a message to legislators in Washington, D.C., and the federal executive branch.

"I am proud to say that we have passed arguably one of the strongest Second Amendment protections in the country,” Nieves said on the floor after voting.

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