House passes cell ban

The House has passed a bill banning drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. The measure, which cleared the House on a 189 to 6 vote, would also ban texting while driving, and would bar younger drivers from talking on the phone, with or without a hands-free device. The bill makes dialing and driving a primary offense, which means police could pull motorists over for having a phone to their ear, even if they weren’t breaking any other rules. Lehigh County Republican Doug Reichley supports the measure.

It’s unclear whether the bill has enough support to pass the Senate – though the upper chamber did pass a ban on texting while driving last year. State Representative Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County Democrat, says lawmakers considering opposing the bill should take heed.

The governor’s spokesman says Rendell supports the measure, and will sign it if it reaches his desk.

McCall to retire

House Speaker Keith McCall won’t run for reelection this year. Instead, he’ll retire in December.

That means over the course of three terms, the House will have had three different speakers. Political scientist Terry Madonna says that’s “unprecedented” in modern Pennsylvania history.

Here’s the release sent out by McCall’s office this afternoon.

LANSFORD, Jan. 12 — House Speaker Keith R. McCall announced today that he has chosen to not run for another term as state representative for the 122nd Legislative District in Carbon County.

“First off I want to say ‘thank you’ to the people of Carbon County for allowing me the honor and the privilege of serving you in Harrisburg,” McCall said. “I’m proud to have lived my entire life here, and I hope and pray that my family and I will be here for as long as the Good Lord allows.

“This decision is about my family. I first came to Harrisburg as a single 22-year-old man following in my father’s footsteps. Now I have a wonderful wife and two amazing children – all of whom I owe not only my thanks, but also a lot of missed dinners, football and baseball games, volleyball games and help with homework.

“As much as I care for the institution of the House, I love my family, and it’s long overdue that I put them first. After 2010 is over I know I will miss the House and the wonderful members and staff with whom I’ve been blessed to serve, but, I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing for myself and my family.

“When I was given the honor of serving as House Speaker by the 203 members of the House I had one goal that stood apart from all others – to do everything in my power to help restore the public’s trust in the finest institution of government anywhere in the world. That work is far from finished. The state House traces its roots back 328 years to William Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment’ and I plan to spend the next year – my final year – as House Speaker improving the performance of the People’s House as we continue to fight to create jobs, improve our schools and make our state a better place to live.

“This decision was neither quick nor easy. The House of Representatives has been my life’s work, but – after one more year of very hard work yet to come – it will be time to take another step forward in that life for myself, my family, and my loved ones.

“The whole reason I went to Harrisburg was to make sure ‘regular folks’ had a voice in the Legislature, and I’m very proud of my record – a record that isn’t complete yet. From fighting to invest in our transportation infrastructure – roads, rail and mass transit – to helping protect homeowners from contractor fraud, we were able to make a difference. Plus, the work is far from complete. Besides the 2010-2011 budget, I want to keep working hard to help promote clean, state-produced energy sources, create good-paying jobs and make sure people can afford to see their doctor when they get sick.”

McCall was first elected to the House in 1982 to fill the vacancy left by the death of his father, the late Thomas J. McCall. He is the first Speaker from Carbon County in the history of the General Assembly. In his career McCall has served as chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee and the House Transportation Committee, as well as the House Majority Whip.

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