Helmet Bill Killed in Committee; Cell Phone Restrictions Defeated; Maintenance Funding for Bike Lanes

House Transportation SubCommittee 3 met this morning at 7 a.m. and heard several bills, including HB1335, the House version of the “Maintenance Reimbursement for Vehicular Lanes that have been converted to Bike Lanes” bill whose identical Senate version SB669, patroned by Ken Alexander of Norfolk had sailed through both the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate floor unanimously.

Although Del. Scott Taylor of Va Beach did a good job of presenting it, and a number of witnesses spoke in favor of the bill, with only two witnesses raising some indirect questions about it, Del. Garrett of Lynchburg moved that it be tabled and it went down to defeat on a voice vote, with Chairman Habeeb (Salem), and Dels. Minchew (Loudoun) and Austin (Covington) agreeing to kill the bill on a party line vote, with only Toscano (Charlottesville) and Filler-Corn (Springfield) voting nay.  

We now await which of the House Transportation SubCommittees (probably either 3 or 1) SB669 gets assigned to for hearing next week, as we try to develop some support among the Delegates who just voted against it (if it goes into Sub3) or Adams (Martinsville), Pillion (Abingdon), & LeMunyon (Loudoun) if it is assigned to Sub 1. Del. Garrett serves on both SubCommittees, and we await House Transportation Chair Villanueva’s (Va Beach) decision as to where he assigns the bill. Since he serves on Sub3 and it didn’t sound as though he voted to table the bill, it would be in order for anyone from down that way to contact his office, along with our Northern VA types to contact Del. Randy Minchew asking them to support SB669, should they see it next week.

After most of Sub3’s bills failed to be reported to the full Transportation Committee, we had about a half hour before the rest of the full committee came in for its 8:30 session in the same room, where the first bill heard was Del. Yost of Blacksburg with HB1360 which would make the wearing of helmets mandatory statewide for all cyclists under the age of 18. With no one there to speak in favor of the bill, I was the only one to speak in opposition to it, after which there was a motion to Table, which carried on a voice vote that sounded as though it was unanimous.

Next heard was Del. Rich Anderson of Manassas with HB461, the bill expanding the prohibitions on what a driver would be permitted to do on their cell phone beyond texting, while driving. After a number of witnesses spoke in favor, with no one opposed, members of the committee, particularly Del. Habeeb, raised a number of questions regarding the bill’s language and particularly which smart phone features should be permitted, and which prohibited. This discussion gradually came around to the conclusion that phone technology was evolving so quickly that some basic decisions on what functions should be permitted while driving need to be made, rather than picking at the problem piece meal. With that, it was moved and unanimously carried that the Bill be Carried Over until the 2017 session and referred to the Crime Commission and to the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability for their consideration and recommendations prior to being considered next year. As everyone on the Committee seemed to agree that this is a real problem, but did not see exactly how to handle it at present, this seemed to be an honest effort to make legislative progress, rather than just sending the bill to oblivion.

Since we also learned this morning that Sen. Barker’s identical SB778 had been defeated on the Senate floor by 22-18, with several surprises to me voting Nay, both of the cell phone restriction bills are off the board for this session, and we are left with only the above discussed SB669/Maintenance Reimbursements for Bike Lanes & SB117 the “Dooring” Bill, still surviving for Crossover to the House next week. As noted earlier for SB669, we’ll be watching to see which House Transportation SubCommittee the Dooring bill is assigned to.

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  • Regarding the phone bill (HA!), why wouldn’t it be written as to say that the only things that can be done are phone and GPS (hands free, of course) and any other activity prohibited? That seems like it would cover the basic usage and prohibit pretty much all future developments.

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