- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A measure expanding Iowa’s ban on texting while driving advanced Tuesday through a Senate committee, without a key provision that would have prohibited any use of hand-held cellphones or other devices.

Iowa law prohibits reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving. The bill would remove a stipulation that an officer must be stopping a person for a different offense to enforce it.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa and chairman of the transportation committee, said he removed the hand-held ban in the proposal because he wanted to make sure he had enough bipartisan support to advance the bill.

“Listening to colleagues on both sides here in my own committee and out on the full floor, I wasn’t certain it would have the support necessary to continue on,” he said.

The transportation committee’s voice vote approval means the bill is now available to the full Senate for debate. Bowman said the hand-held provision, which was introduced by the state Department of Public Safety and has the blessing of Gov. Terry Branstad, can always be added back if there’s enough support.

A House subcommittee advanced a similar texting bill Tuesday with the hand-held ban. It’s unclear what kind of support it will get in the full House. A texting bill proposed by Bowman was approved last session in the Democratic-led Senate, but it failed to advance in the Republican-controlled House.

The transportation committee also agreed to defer a vote on a bill that would have increased the speed limit on some Iowa highways from 70 mph to 75 mph. Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said he needed more time to consider the bill.

“This is an issue that I have had a lot of involvement with in the past,” he said, noting his work in passing a law in 2005 that increased the speed limit on some Iowa highways from 65 mph to 70 mph. “So I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea, but I think there needs to be a little more thought put into it.”

Still, a procedural deadline this Friday means the bill will likely not advance this session.

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