Lawmakers OK bill to curb cell phone use by teen drivers


Bills aimed at curbing cell phone use by teen drivers and allowing victims of identity theft to block access to their credit information won final approval Tuesday as the Legislature moved closer to meeting its deadline to adjourn by Friday.

The House and Senate finished their business for the day late Tuesday and recessed until Wednesday, pushing off possible adjournment for at least another day.

The cell phone measure began as a ban on talking on the phone while driving, but has been amended so that it applies only to drivers under 18.

It further says that police cannot pull teens over just for using a cell phone. But teens would be subject to a maximum $90 fine for cell phone use if they are stopped for another offense such as speeding.

Proponents of the consumer identity theft bill said it would protect consumers from criminals looking to exploit their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

The bill allows anyone to block access to their credit for $10, but identity theft victims can use the service for free. The bill also prohibits stores from printing or displaying personal information on receipts, in most instances.

In cases where companies have sensitive consumer information like Social Security numbers or credit card numbers stolen, the firms must notify consumers as soon as possible, provided they do not jeopardize a related law enforcement operation.

The bill now moves to Governor Ted Kulongoski, who is expected to sign it.

Also winning final approval was a bill to add citizen members to a state commission that will recommend pay raises for state lawmakers and statewide elected officials.

The commission, which has been dormant since 1990, would be expanded to include one citizen from each of the state's five congressional districts, chosen at random from voter registration lists.

The panel's recommendations will go to the 2009 Legislature, which would make the final decision on pay raises for lawmakers and statewide officials.

And lawmakers gave the final signoff to a new financial aid program for college students, designed to help more low-to-middle income students afford tuition.

Under the program, all students who either worked, borrowed money, or put their savings toward their college tuition, and look for help from family members and the federal government, would then be guaranteed some help from the state.

Community college students would be guaranteed $5,200; state university or private college students could receive $7,950. The program is expected to cover about 32,000 students, and has an estimated price tag of $106 million, about twice what the state currently spends on student aid programs.

"This makes sure low income people can get into college &

it catches those people who make $1 too much and fall through the cracks," said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem.

Also winning final approval Tuesday was a bill to require schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education classes a week for grades K-5, and 225 minutes from grades 6-8, a requirement that will be phased in over the next few years.

The bill sets aside $860,000 for a Department of Education grant program to assist school districts in hiring new PE teachers and training current ones.

The measure also requires schools to spend at least half of physical education class time each week on actual physical activity.

Tuesday's quick work was in sharp contrast to Monday night, when tempers flared as debate in the House stretched to nearly midnight. The groans were audible when House Minority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, requested an hour-long break in order for a Republican meeting at 9:30 p.m.

When the hour was nearly up, several Republicans sparked rumors of a mass walkout by driving away from the building. That would have brought business to a halt, since a quorum is needed.

But nearly all members filed back into the House chamber by 10:30 p.m., in time for a lengthy debate over a plan to create protections for residents of mobile home parks who have lost their patch of land as such parks are increasingly sold off for development.

Rep. Carolyn Tomei hoisted a sign reading, "Stop talking and vote," as Rep. Jerry Krummel, R-Wilsonville, discussed the bill, prompting Republicans to object to her behavior. Tomei apologized, and debate finally drew to a close just before midnight.

The bill numbers are: HB2872, SB583, SB700, SB334, HB3141

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