weather icon Clear

Bill bans hand-held cellphones if driving

CARSON CITY — Cellphone users, drop your phones before you start your engines.

The Assembly on Monday voted 24-17 for a bill already approved by the Senate that would outlaw the use of hand-held cellphones and texting by all drivers starting Jan. 1.

Under the bill, violators would be assessed $50 fines for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses. Police would start issuing warnings to violators on Oct. 1, but fines would not be imposed until next year.

The vote came on a marathon voting day, with the Senate and Assembly approving about 100 bills to beat a self-imposed deadline. Most bills that did not pass both houses by Monday will be considered dead for the remainder of the session, scheduled to end by 1 a.m. June 7. Now legislators must agree to amendments to bills and pass or kill those that are exempt from the deadline.

Another top bill to win approval was Assembly Bill 294, which allows Nevada resort hotels with mobile gaming devices to let patrons use them to gamble from their hotel rooms. State gaming regulators would determine how and when the devices could be used.

The bill won Senate approval unanimously. During hearings, witnesses said the state could generate $18 million more annually in state gaming taxes.

“Technology has moved forward substantially,” said Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas. “There are safeguards built in. I was one who years back had great, great hesitation.”

Before the final vote on the cellphone bill, the Assembly tacked on a minor amendment that must be approved in the Senate before the measures goes to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature or veto.

Sandoval’s policy has been not to reveal what he will do until a bill reaches his desk.

Only two of the 26 Republicans in the Legislature voted for the bill.

If the governor signs the bill, Nevada would become the 31st state to outlaw texting by all drivers. Eight others prohibit only teenagers from texting. And Nevada would become the ninth state to prohibit the use of cellphones by all drivers unless they use hands-free devices.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said it is clearly hazardous to drive while talking on a cellphone or texting.

“We know it is a problem in this state,” he said. “We have been talking about the dangers of texting for years. But it is difficult just to stop texting because you don’t know what they (drivers) are doing on the cellphone. It would become a burden” for police to determine what drivers were doing. “So we expanded it.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said that everyone realizes that texting should be outlawed but that SB140 goes too far.

“There are a lot of distractions besides cellphones,” he added. “Eating a sandwich. Drinking a cup of coffee. This is a California-style law.”

Goicoechea added it is still unclear whether the bill allows someone to text or call from a car stopped along the road, or at a traffic light.

In other key votes Monday:

■ The Senate on a party-line 11-10 vote passed AB136, which makes it easier for some felons to secure good-time credits for passing educational courses and win earlier releases.

The bill originally failed, but Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, later asked that his no vote be changed, and on a second vote, the bill was approved.

Republicans, led by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, had opposed the bill.

“It guts the truth in sentencing (laws) in this state and frees felons early,” he said.

■ The Senate voted 13-8 for AB301, which makes it easier for felons who have finished their sentences to regain voting rights.

“These people have paid their debt to society, as heinous as their crimes may have been,” said Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

■ The Assembly voted 41-0 for SB282, which would make it a misdemeanor crime, subject to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to willfully and deliberately display in any public place or publications the Social Security number of another. The person whose number was released also may sue for damages and legal costs.

■ The Assembly voted 26-15 for AB332, which would require the Economic Forum to hold one additional meeting a year to gauge whether state taxes are growing or declining.

The forum is the group of five business leaders who determine how much revenue the state government has to spend. The bill, which is exempt from the deadline, now must be heard by the Senate.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3801. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Joe Biden at the national hospitality workers union.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the national hospitality workers union during UNITE HERE's town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at Culinary Union Hall in Las Vegas. @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren at Culinary Union
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Culinary Union town hall in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2019.
Secretary of Education visits Henderson school
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited students at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson to talk about college planning on Dec. 4, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump dropped from Terry Fator’s show on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fator has edited out one prominent figure: President Donald Trump, a focal point of Fator’s regular stage show and also Christmas show over the past 3½ years. The Trump puppet, with his pop-up hairpiece, has been sidelined from both shows until further notice. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - VIDEO
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - VIDEO
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sanders talks mining, Medicare in Nevada

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was reunited with a Navy veteran who had been depressed to the point of suicide about medical bills, but who credited Sanders help with saving him.