Nebraska bills target distracted driving, pricey vehicles

| Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Nebraska state legislator is pursuing a measure intended to make roadways safer while another legislator wants owners of high-end vehicles to pay more in taxes.

Sen. Jim Cudaback of Riverdale has introduced a bill that would prohibit drivers from doing things that have become quite common while behind the wheel.

Under his bill, everything from applying makeup to viewing an iPod could result in a $1,000 fine for offenders.

Drivers also would be forbidden from personal grooming, interacting with pets, adjusting cargo, using any cell phone – “hands-free” or hand-held – text messaging device, laptop computer, or viewing any device that can play video, such as an iPod.

Calls or text messages in emergency situations would be exempted, as would dashboard readouts or other displays of information about a vehicle’s operation, conduct or navigation.

Cudaback’s effort is an expanded version of laws in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York that ban the use of hand-held phones while driving.

“Maybe this whole bill is ahead of its time,” Cudaback told the Lincoln Journal Star. “But it will pass sometime.”

In other legislative action, folks who own a new Mercedes Benz SL600 roadster or other top-of-the-line vehicles likely aren’t big fans of a bill from Sen. Tom Baker of Trenton.

Baker wants to require higher taxes to be paid on pricier vehicles.

His bill would increase the tax on passenger vehicles and light trucks worth more than $80,000.

The tax would increase $40 for every $2,000 in value.

The $1,160 tax for the largest trucks would not be changed.

Existing Nebraska law requires all passenger vehicles with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of more than $78,000 to be taxed at $1,460 the first year. The tax decreases over time. Vehicles more than 14 years old are not taxed.

The bill would gradually increase the tax, until it reaches $1,900 for vehicles with a price tag over $100,000. There also would be a slight decrease in taxes for cars and light trucks valued at less than $8,000.

Motorcycles also would be included in the same taxing scheduled as cars and light trucks.

The higher tax is expected to net the state about $30,000 more annually, The Associated Press reported.

Cudaback’s bill – LB1108 – is in the Judiciary Committee. Baker’s bill – LB248 – is before the full chamber.

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