State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, may not have voted for House Bill 1094, but he pledged to do his best to obey it.
"I promise I'm going to give up that text messaging now that it's illegal," joked White, not an avid text-messager, during a legislative update he provided to the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club on Tuesday. White gave his opinions about several high-profile bills from this year's legislative session and gave an ominous outlook for next year, when he said budget cuts could be even tougher as the state continues to deal with declining revenues.
House Bill 1094 was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday in Fort Collins, where a 9-year-old was killed while riding her bicycle by a driver who police say was distracted by the use of her cell phone. The law bans all drivers from sending text messages, and drivers 18 years old and younger will not be allowed to talk on their cell phones, either.
"Driving requires our full attention," Ritter said in a statement. "Drivers should not be texting while behind the wheel. And drivers younger than 18 ought to be focusing on the road, not their cell phone."
White opposed the bill, believing the use of cell phones while driving should be "an issue of personal responsibility rather than legislative mandate."
The cell phone law was just one of many White discussed with Rotarians. He also discussed a repeal of the death penalty that narrowly failed in the final hours of this year's legislative session. The proposed legislation would have devoted expected savings from abolishing the death penalty in the state to cold case investigations. White also opposed that bill. He was encouraged by local Rotarian Paula Cooper Black to reconsider his position if a repeal surfaces again.
"I think we'll see it again," White said. "I don't know what the ultimate outcome will be. These things tend to go round and round until they pass, so be on the lookout for it again."
White also defended his vote on the FASTER legislation that increased vehicle registration fees to raise $250 million annually for transportation projects statewide. White was the only Republican in either chamber of the state Legislature to vote for FASTER. White said transportation revenues were in crisis and that at the end of the day, FASTER was the only solution left on the table.
The majority of White's presentation, however, was focused on the state's budgetary troubles and the painful cuts declining revenues required during this legislative session. White, a member of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee, joked that if he had failed to anger anyone during the legislative session, then they weren't paying attention.
White also joked that if he didn't upset anyone this year, he was sure to next year. White thinks state revenues will not have rebounded enough to prevent additional "ugly, bad cuts or transfers." He compared the state's fiscal crisis to a Shakespearean drama building toward a tragic end.
"In the third act, Hamlet takes it in the gizzard," White said. "I'm afraid that's what we're faced with."