Vetoing the texting-while-driving bill

On June 17, Governor Perry vetoed H.B. 242 that would have made texting while driving illegal. Perry’s veto statement cited a civil liberties argument calling the bill “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

Perry’s decision is part of a fundamental debate about the proper role of the government. Perry is correct that the government is attempting to manage the behavior of adults. The debate is really what are reasonable limits.

Everyone in America talks about “freedom.” What you learn watching politics is that people have very different ideas about what the limits of freedom should be. Social conservatives want to use government to tell you can not do one set of things, liberals often want to keep you from doing different things. There are those libertarians out there (you can check out the Libertarian Party yourself) who would let you do pretty much anything: drugs, prostitution, and texting while driving.

You can no longer have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle in Texas–even if the driver is not drinking from it or hasn’t had enough to be impaired by alcohol. That is a comparable restriction to the texting ban. Adults are being prohibited from doing something even if it may not have not impacted the safety of others. As Ben Wear pointed out in the Austin-American Statesman, Perry signed a bill in 2009 mandating that passengers in the back seat of a car wear seat belts. That law is just as intrusive as HB 242 and certainly has less impact on the safety of other drivers. More recently, Perry sung the praises of legislation that requires pregnant women to get sonograms before they can have an abortion.

Almost all of the people who attain power are anxious to use it to shape behavior. They believe in freedom but find exceptions. Perry’s veto decision does not make much sense to me, but it may to someone else.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: