The Senate on Monday evening overhwelmingly passed a House bill that would create a civil offense of texting while driving. It would initially carry a $25 fine through July 1 2016, then increase to $100 after. The measure would “sunset” in three years, to give lawmakers a chance to examine its efficacy before reinstating it.
“This will bring Mississippi into the 21st Century,” said Senate Transportation Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland. “… This is about public safety.”
But others disagreed during floor debate.
“Do we want to be granting police officers the authority to pull someone over simply because they make a downward glance?” said Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville. “We already have laws in place for reckless driving, weaving … Simply because we are elected doesn’t mean we can pass a law to change all human behavior.”
McDaniel and Sens. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, and Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, passed the only three votes against the measure. Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones, D-Canton, raised questions of whether such a law could be used for racial profiling — an issue that’s been debated before — but said he is for the bill overall.
The measure is likely headed to the governor, but could be held on a procedural motion through Tuesday for more debate.