It got through the House at the end of April by a vote of 38-22. Since then, it has had one reading in the Senate, bounced around to committees and work sessions and now it rests in the Senate Rules Committee.
The bill is being pushed by Rep. Carolyn Tomei whose district (41) includes Southeast Portland down through Milwaukie.
On the phone from Salem yesterday, Tomei said now is the time to urge Senators to support the bill. She says Rules Committee Chair Richard Devlin has made made it clear he’d pass it out of committee but that “the challenge” will be mustering enough support on the Senate floor.
“To me, this is a public safety bill,” said Tomei. However, she worries that Senate Republicans will line up against the bill: “The Republicans have taken a party-line vote against the bill… for no specific grounds, but from their concerns that we’re becoming a nanny-state.” (Only four out of 24 House Republicans voted in favor of the bill).
riding bikes. He could have an important
vote if the bill reaches the floor.
(Photo © J. Maus)
One Republican Tomei said needs to hear from constituents on this bill is Sen. Jason Atkinson. Tomei singled Atkinson out because of his enthusiasm for biking (he was a speaker at the recent Oregon Bike Summit). Atkinson was a staunch supporter of the Idaho Stop bill (which didn’t make it out of committee) and he supported a near-successful attempt to allow fixed geared bicycles to not have a separate hand brake. Atkinson has not yet responded to our calls for comment on this bill.
Our recent story on the bill generated 80 comments. Many of those were supportive of the bill, saying it would be a great step in improving safety. But others felt it didn’t go far enough.
As written, the current bill would make use of a “mobile communication device” a Class D traffic violation. (NOTE: This story originally said the bill would allow police officers to enforce it only as a secondary action, but that is incorrect. HB 2377 would make violation of this law a primary offense. I apologize for the error.)
Among the exceptions when a mobile device could be used while operating a motor vehicle include people operating emergency vehicles, farm equipment, CB radios (which was left out of House version), and so on.
Another exception where the law wouldn’t apply is stated like this:
“… a person operating a motor vehicle in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job;”
When I asked if that exception weakened the bill, Tomei said no. “It’s not in there so you can call your secretary,” she said, “It’s only for utility workers, truckers, etc…” When I asked Tomei if certain employment types were clearly defined in the bill she said no, but that, “we’ve made it clear what we meant in testimony.”
The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee has not made a direct statement about HB 2377, but they did write a letter to ODOT in March calling for an “all driver ban” for both motor vehicle and bicycle operators.