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Senate, Assembly pass texting bans, don't agree on fines

The Wisconsin Senate approved a ban on sending text messages while driving, but reduced the penalties the Assembly members wanted to impose.

Senators cut the proposed fines Tuesday to between $20 and $400 - the same as for inattentive driving. The Assembly wanted the fines to be up to $800. Both houses will have to reach an agreement before the bill can go to Gov. Jim Doyle. Doyle has already said he'll sign the measure. It would take effect seven months after that.

Tuesday's Senate vote was 30-3. The no votes were cast by Republicans Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn and Joe Leibham of Sheboygan, and Democrat Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee.

Leibham said if the state wanted to crack down on inattentive driving, it already has the law to do that.

But Racine Democrat John Lehman said texting goes way beyond inattentive driving, and it's a "very, very deadly" activity. The National Conference of State Legislatures says 19 states and Washington DC ban all texting by drivers.