February 21, 2013
RE: League Withdraws Opposition to “Texting While Driving” Fine Bills (Floor Amendment to “Texting While Driving” Bills Returns a Fair Percentage of Fine Proceeds to Municipalities)
When first introduced, the League had no objections to S-69/A-1080. The companion bills would increase fines for multiple offenses of talking on a hand-held wireless telephone or texting a message with a hand-held wireless electronic communication device while driving.
At a hearing in June, however, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee amended the Senate bill to include a provision that requires the fines imposed on violators to be sent to the State Treasurer to be used for the public education program to inform motorists of the dangers of texting and driving.
Pursuant to that amendment, while local enforcement agencies will experience an increase in expenditures, since the bill will require a mandatory court appearance by the officer who cites a violation, the municipality will also see a decrease in revenues, as the fines would be redirected to the State.
We informed the sponsors that the League opposed S-69, with that provision and asked that it be removed. The bill, however, was approved by the Senate and sent to the Assembly, where it was referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. Legislation identical to the original version of the bill – A-1080 – also awaited action in that Committee.
When heard by that Committee in December, we made our objections known; but A-1080 was amended to include the diversion of the fine proceeds to State coffers. In that form, both bills were sent to the Assembly Floor for final action. The Assembly sponsor, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, however, agreed to consider our concerns before moving the bill for a vote.
On Thursday, February 14, she made good on that pledge and advanced amendments to both A-1080 and S-69. Those amendments would divide the increased fines for all violations between the State and local government. From the current level of $100 for each violation, this bill increases the fines to $200 to $400 for a first offense, $400 to $600 for a second offense, and $600 to $800 for third or subsequent offenses. As a result, local enforcing agencies will now receive appropriate compensation, should the bill become law.
We thank Assemblywoman Quijano and we withdraw our opposition to A-1080 and S-69. If you have any questions, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.