AUSTIN (AP) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed 23 bills Friday, including legislation that would have outlawed sending or reading text messages while driving. Lawmakers approved the texting ban last month, but Perry called it an "overreach" and "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults."
Perry also struck a handful of spending lines in the state budget. He signed several bills, including much of the next two-year state budget. That budget spent $50.4 billion in state money, but lawmakers are still wrestling with education spending in a special session. "Our state faced significant challenges as we began the legislative session in January, and I am proud Texas will continue to live within its means while encouraging job creation and maintaining essential services," Perry said in a statement with the announcement of his decisions. "There is still some work to be done by lawmakers, but I am confident the bills I have signed will strengthen our economic momentum moving forward."
Former House Speaker Tom Craddick had pushed the texting while driving ban, touting it as a public-safety measure. But the bill triggered more than a half-hour of debate on the House floor with opponents arguing the bill would amount to criminalizing drivers simply for receiving a text message while driving. San Antonio and El Paso already have laws forbidding texting while driving, and at least 30 other states have enacted similar statewide bans. "The keys to dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education," Perry said in his veto statement. "I recommend additional education on this issue in driving safety and driver's education courses, public service ads, and announcements, and I encourage individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the anti-texting language included in this bill to work with state and local leaders to educate the public of these dangers."
Perry also vetoed a measure that would have allowed candidates for public office to correct campaign finance filings without penalty within 14 days after a sworn complaint has been filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Another vetoed bill would have allowed transit buses in certain urban counties to drive on highway shoulders during peak traffic hours. Perry said it would have endangered motorists by not leaving an emergency lane. In total, Perry vetoed 24 bills, including an internet sales tax measure that he axed last month.
Perry set the known record for vetoes by a Texas governor in 2000, when he infuriated the Legislature by vetoing a record 83 bills. He killed so many bills the night of June 17, 2001, the final day of bill consideration, that politicos dubbed it the "Father's Day Massacre." That was shortly after he had ascended to the governorship, when Republican George W. Bush resigned to become president. Four years later, in 2005, Perry issued 20 vetoes, the lowest number in a regular session since 1975. Bush had far fewer vetoes during his tenure as governor. His highest total for a legislative session was 38 in 1997. (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)