Gazelka: Hands-free bill not moving this year

The Republican majority leader of the Minnesota Senate says he does not expect a hands-free cellphone requirement for drivers to become law this year.

Paul Gazelka was asked about the legislation Monday afternoon on the Senate floor by its author Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan.

“We have had several hearings on this bill in both bodies, and in each of those hearings it has passed overwhelmingly with a voice vote and no opposition,” Carlson said. “I’m wondering if the majority leader can give me a little clarity on either when or why this bill would be entertained for a floor vote?”

Carlson noted that Gazelka had conducted an informal poll on Facebook, and more than 80 percent of those who responded favored the bill.

Gazelka said the proposal needs more work, and that there are other big bills which still need to be finished.

“To me it reminds me something of like Sunday liquor where frankly it took a number of years and over time it just kept growing to a point where we did something, ” he said. “So, Senator Carlson I don’t expect it to move yet this year.”

Gazelka listed taxes, a bonding bill, elder care and opioid abuse prevention as among the issues that still need to be resolved in the remaining two weeks of the session.

In an interview earlier Monday, he said there were other approaches to distracted driving and said not everyone agreed with the hands-free mandate.

“We all acknowledge it’s a problem, but the solution is what we haven’t completely agreed on yet.”

Supporters of the hands-free requirement include family members of people who have been killed by distracted drivers. They say the state must take action before more people die.

  • David

    If you kill someone while distracted, it should be a felony. How is it not murder?

  • TonyP

    Actually a new statute is not needed. Under 169.13s1, the “reckless driving” definition covers all manner of bad driving conduct. It also raises the level from a misdemeanor to a gross if there is great bodily harm. A ‘tweak” could raise the threshold to a felony in the event of a death. There – problem solved.

    • Paul Jeddeloh

      Yet since there is a current yet weak law addressing texting, the qualification would provide an interpretation to keep it from being interpreted as you proposed. Your interpretation would require serious injury before it was a problem. Hands free would allow enforcement before some one is killed.

  • Tiger

    My father was killed by a driver who was looking at her phone for 12 seconds, never looked up to see a man in a REFLECTIVE ORANGE BUS DRIVING JACKET, hit and killed him. She thought being on her phone was more important, to help her daughter change a passcode. Two weekends in a county jail for killing a person. Now she is back to teaching Kindergartners. Hmmmm…