Virginia’s Legislative Process is now about halfway through the session. Virginia’s Constitution limits the length of the session to 60 days (90 days for a budget year), and bills have to be passed by February 10th of this year in order to be considered by the other house. Here’s an update on the transportation bills being considered in 2009:
HB 1876: This bill looks like the winner among the many bills requiring drivers of motor vehicles to avoid the use of cell phones while driving. The bill is a big improvement over the predecessors. It’s been reported out of the two different committees. The provisions only apply to motor vehicles, prohibit dialing or entering text, reading emails or text messages. The law doesn’t apply to GPS navigation systems or in emergencies. It also doesn’t allow an officer to pull you over for using a cell phone (it’s not a primary offense). Penalty is a $20 fine the first time, $50 otherwise.
HB 1645: This bill allows localities to use up to two-thirds of their highway funds to service debt for projects in any of various capital improvement programs. This means that localities can pay for more projects through debt financing. It passed the house unanimously. This is similar to SB 1438, which passed the Senate 36-4.
HB 2476: Extends until 2010 the special clean fuel plates allowing single drivers to use the HOV lanes if they drive a hybrid or other clean fuel vehicle.
On to the Senate:
SB 1402: Increases the penalty for "Improper Driving", a lesser offense than reckless driving, from $500 to $1000. Passed the Senate unanimously.
I encourage Virginia residents to visit "Richmond Sunlight" and to contact their legislators about any of these bills you feel strongly about.