Whether it could soon be illegal to talk on hand-held cellphones while driving in Vermont remained unclear Monday after the Senate rejected the House's 11th-hour attempt to revive the measure.
The Senate on Monday afternoon voted not to concur with the House's move Thursday night that attached the cellphone ban onto a broader transportation bill, H.314. Instead, senators called for a conference committee.
Monday's vote came after the Senate Transportation Committee earlier reported on the floor that it supported the cellphone ban, 5-0.
However, Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, as well as Gov. Peter Shumlin, oppose the ban. The bill was referred to Sears' committee during the second half of the session but Sears did not take it up.
Monday morning on the floor, Sears huddled with Senate leadership, members of the Transportation Committee and others, saying he was unaware the Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Chittenden/Grand Isle, had voted to support the cellphone ban.
Meetings between senators and the governor's office ensued Monday afternoon before the Senate reconvened and instead of endorsing the House changes, senators voted the bill to a conference committee.
The bill would impose a $100 fine on drivers caught talking on hand-held cellphones while driving. A second offense within two years would call for a $200 fine. The bill does not assess points on a driver's license for using a cellphone, except if the infraction occurs in a work zone or as a secondary or subsequent offense.
It does not apply to two-way radios and allows for the use of hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth, as long as the phone is in a stationary receptacle.