House And Sentave Override Veto On Cell Phone Bill

The Mississippi House and Senate on Wednesday overrode Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's veto of a bill banning cities and counties from restricting drivers' use of cell phones.

The House vote was 114-7, and the Senate vote a few minutes later was 41-9.

House Public Utilities Chairman Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, said if cities and counties set up a hodgepodge of local laws on cell phone use, local officials could use them like speed traps to collect fines and pad local budgets.

"We thought it would become somewhat of a cash cow,'' Ellis said.

Musgrove vetoed the bill Friday, saying it sought to impose a state prohibition on what should be a local issue.

Ellis said Shelby, a Delta town of 2,926, has the only local law he knows of in Mississippi banning people from talking on the phone while driving. Shelby is on U.S. 61, about halfway between Cleveland and Clarksdale. Shelby City Clerk Jackie Sanders referred calls about the local law to the city attorney, who was out of his office.

Many states over the past year have considered banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, but so far only New York has taken that step.

Several bills that would have restricted drivers' use of cell phones died in the Mississippi Legislature after lawmakers said they wanted to study the issue.

Rep. Tommy Woods, R-Byhalia, said if small towns set up a patchwork of local cell phone laws, drivers could cruise into trouble without even knowing about the local rules. He said if a driver's cell phone rings a mile outside a small town, "by the time you get the phone answered and talk, you'd be in town or on the other side of town.''