Robey, Malone push for tougher cellphone bill

Maryland drivers might soon have to opt for a hands-free device if they want to talk on their phone while driving.

After texting while driving was made a primary offense last year, legislation making the use of a cellphone while driving a primary offense is close to being passed.

Legislation introduced by Howard County Sen. James Robey and Del. James Malone would make the use of a cellphone while driving a primary offense, carrying with it a $75 fine for first-time offenders.

The House of Delegates and Senate have each passed the bill, but a Senate committee tweaked the Senate version to make it allowable to use a cellphone while at a red light.

Robey said that is "troublesome" for him because it means people can be distracted while at an intersection.

The use of a cellphone has been a secondary offense since 2010.

Under the proposed law, second-time offenders could be charged up to $125 and third-time offenders up to $175.

Malone and Robey proposed similar legislation last year, but it was rejected 10-1 in a Senate committee, Robey said.

This year, the measure passed the full Senate, 41-6.

Robey said senators who voted against the bill last year told him they had seen the increased dangers of using a cellphone while driving and that "it was time" for the bill to be passed.

The bill is expected to head to conference committee this week for House and Senate members to reach a compromise.

Robey said he was hopeful a compromise could be reached.

"I will be very disappointed if it doesn't," he said.

Council hires new administrator

The Howard County Council has hired a familiar face to assume the role of council administrator.

Sheila Tolliver, who retired in 2009 after 10 years as council administrator, has come back to the council in the same role. Her first day was Monday, April 1.

"There's a lot of new staff and new processes," she said. "I'm still just getting my toes in the water again at this point."

The council administrator is responsible for managing the County Council office and staff as well as managing the legislative process and analyzing legislation sent down from the county executive's office.

Tolliver, a Queen Anne's County resident, also served as council administrator from 1992 to 1994.

"Sheila did a great job for us before, and I look forward to her being back," Council member Mary Kay Sigaty said.

Tolliver said she "loved" the job so accepted council chairwoman Jen Terrasa's invitation to return to the position.

 "I did work for the council in their first two years in office and they are wonderful public officials," Tolliver said.

Terrasa, acting on behalf of the County Council by offering Tolliver the position, said the council is "thrilled" to have her back.

"She's a known quantity," Terrasa said. "She brings a lot to the position."

The council administrator's position had been held by Steve Legendre since 2009. His last day was March 29.

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