Senate passes its texting ban, sets up clash with House version

South Dakota is one step closer to a ban on texting while driving Friday after the state Senate voted 26-7 to adopt a ban.

But the Senate ban differs in a few key respects from another texting ban that earlier passed the House of Representatives. The two measures need to be reconciled in order to become law.

Sen. Mike Vehle, a longtime champion of a texting ban, made several concessions with his measure that passed the Senate Friday. Unlike his original proposal, a violation of his bill’s texting ban would be a petty offense, not a misdemeanor. And law enforcement could only ticket someone for texting while driving if they pulled a driver over for something else.

"If I was a benevolent dictator, this would not be my bill of choice," Vehle said.

He made the concessions to try to win support in the House, which has traditionally resisted texting bans.

Several senators criticized Vehle’s ban for being too weak, not too strong.

"I support a texting ban, but I don’t think this goes far enough," said Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, who last year was an outspoken opponent of texting bans.

This year, though, House members have passed their own texting ban. It also makes texting while driving a “secondary” offense, so police can’t pull someone over just for texting.

But the House version also, unlike the Senate’s, overrides local text bans like Sioux Falls’.

Those bans are often stricter than both proposed statewide bans, allowing law enforcement to pull people over for texting.

If the two chambers are unable to resolve their differences, the issue could go to a conference committee at the end of the session.