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Jerry Brown vetoes higher fines for driving while using cellphone

September 7, 2011 | 10:04 am

Although many Californians ignore laws against using hand-held cellphones and sending text messages while driving, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have taken a bigger bite from the wallets of violators.

Repeat offenders could have ended up paying more than $500 when court fees and penalties are added in, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

Simitian proposed that the base fine for the first offense increase from $20 to $50 because of concern that not enough motorists are complying with the 3-year-old hands-free requirement for cellphone uses.

Simitian called the veto "a lost opportunity to save more lives," adding "I’m disappointed but the governor gets the last word."

SB 28 would have raised the base fines for second and subsequent offenses from $50 to $100 for texting or talking on a hand-held phone while driving, and extended the prohibitions to bicyclists.

"I certainly support discouraging cellphone use while driving, but not ratcheting up the penalties as prescribed by this bill," Brown said in his veto message. "For people of ordinary means, current fines and penalty assessments should be sufficient deterrent."

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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