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Assembly passes tougher ban on cellphone use while driving

The Baltimore Sun

As the General Assembly heads into its final hours this evening, lawmakers have already passed legislation allowing police to pull drivers over for talking on a cellphone and have approved every piece of Gov. Martin O'Malley's agenda. 

Under the cell phone bill, which aides said O'Malley will sign, drivers will be able to make a call at a stoplight, but can be pulled over if chatting while in motion. The first ticket would come with a $75 fine that would increase with the next two offenses, according to the bill sponsored by Del. James Malone, a Baltimore County Democrat. Under current law, driving and talking on a cellphone is a secondary offense -- meaning drivers must be doing something else wrong for an officer to stop them.

Monday afternoon, lawmakers also pushed across the finish line the remaining parts of O'Malley's agenda.

One will expand early voting, which has grown in popularity and caused long lines during the 2012 election season. More days will be added to the calendar and more voting centers will be opened in the state's most populous counties. The bill also will add Maryland to the growing number of states that allow for same-day registration and voting, though it will only be allowed during the early voting period.

Another O'Malley bill will create an expedited licensing process for veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce and award college credits for certain military experience, measures praised by Department of Defense officials for being among the best state proposals to help veterans work.

The General Assembly session ends at midnight tonight.

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