Council abides veto of car texting ban


POSTED: Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oahu motorists may still use their cell phones while driving - for now.

;[Preview]    Hawaii Texting & Gaming Bill Failed At Council

The Honolulu Council failed to over-ride Mayor Mufi Hanneman’s veto that prohibited drivers from texting or gaming on cell phones while driving.

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The City Council failed yesterday to override Mayor Mufi Hannemann's veto of a bill that would have banned drivers from text-messaging on their cell phones or playing video games.

Instead, the City Council will consider a complete ban on using cell phones while driving - a measure that Hannemann initially supports.

Hannemann pushed for councilmembers to sustain his veto because the law would be virtually impossible to enforce, echoing statements by the Honolulu Police Department and the city prosecutor's office.

“;This was a flawed bill designed to enable its sponsor constant political posturing rather than to address public safety concerns legitimately,”; Hannemann said in a statement, referring to Charles Djou's upcoming congressional campaign. “;Police and prosecutors made it very clear that (this bill) would be unenforceable. It was a half-baked manapua that would do nothing to effectively improve safety on our roads.”;

Djou accused three councilmembers who switched their vote on the text-messaging ban of playing politics and questioned the Council's integrity.

Last month the City Council approved the less restrictive ban in a 7-1 vote, capturing enough votes for a possible override of a veto.

But Hannemann allies Gary Okino, Nestor Garcia and Todd Apo withdrew their support yesterday and voted to sustain Hannemann's veto. Councilman Rod Tam consistently opposed the measure.

“;What just happened on the Honolulu City Council floor is disgusting,”; Djou said after the vote. “;It is an extraordinarily sad day for the integrity of the City Council. Votes here, as you can see, are negotiable at all times.”;

Apo, the Council's chairman, called Djou's remarks an “;overdramatization”; and said he changed his mind because of Bill 4, the new bill for a more restrictive ban on cell phones.

“;When you address overriding a veto, there's a different standard,”; Apo said. “;I still believe in the way I voted the first time. Had we not have an alternative proposal on the floor, I probably would have voted to continue the override. To call this a complete failure of confidence is an overdramatization.”;

But Apo also said that there are many problems with the new bill.

Under that bill, drivers would be prohibited from holding a cell phone - even dialing a number or answering a call - while the car is turned on. The ban would be similar to one in Connecticut that is one of the most restrictive bans against cell phones while driving.

“;It would require a change in habit for most people,”; said Lori Nishimura, deputy prosecutor.