DE legislative roundup: cell phones and casinos

    A bill restricting the use of cell phones by motorists picks up speed in the Delaware General Assembly, and there’s new life for a Wilmington casino project.

    A proposal to prohibit Delaware drivers from using hand-held cell phones has cleared the state House of Representatives.

    The bill, approved by a 33-to-5 vote this week at Legislative Hall in Dover, would ban talking on a cell phone while driving unless using a hands-free device. The bill also prohibits texting or e-mailing while driving.

    “This is very close to my heart,” said Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley), one of the bill’s sponsors. “I believe in this legislation because it makes everyone pay more attention to what’s in front of you when you’re driving a car.”

    The measure now goes to the Senate. Two previous attempts to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving died in the General Assembly.

    Miro believes the third time may be the charm.

    “I’m very hopeful that the Senate will pass this legislation,” he said. “All indications are they’re going to deal with it before June 30th and that the governor will sign it.”

    Lawmakers approved several amendments before voting on the bill. One allows a driver to use his hands to dial a number before using the hands-free device to talk.

    The bill, which exempts police, firefighters and other emergency personnel on duty, carries penalties of $50 for first-offense violators and up to $200 for subsequent offenses.

    If signed into law, the legislation would take effect 180 days after its enactment.  The issues behind texting and driving, especially among teens is our First Look this week on the Delaware news magazine First at 5:30 and 10p Friday, 11am Saturday, and 5:30pm Monday on WHYY-TV.

    Wilmington casino proposal unveiled

    A casino development that’s been on the drawing board since 2003 has gotten new life as lawmakers consider expanding casino gambling in Delaware.

    Riverwalk Partners LLC presented plans this week for a 120-room hotel and a 100,000 square-foot casino.

    The presentation was timed to encourage lawmakers to pass legislation that would add two casino venues in the state, including one in Wilmington. Casino gambling is currently limited to the state’s three horse-racing tracks.

    Markell signs domestic violence bill

    Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill Friday that will make strangulation a felony, closing a legal loophole and protecting victims of domestic violence.

    “Today’s new law treats strangling as the serious crime that it is,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles Butler.

    Until now, strangulation was not considered a separate category of crime, so cases were prosecuted using the crime of assault or as a misdemeanor charge.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal