Iowa State Government Liaison
Alan Ericson, wb0oav

RE: [A BILL FOR An Act relating to the use of an electronic device in a voice-activated or hands-free mode while driving, providing penalties, and making penalties applicable.] 

WB0OAV IA State Government Liaison  - April 16, 2021

The "texting bill" appears dead for the Iowa 2021 legislative session.  This proposed law raised concern in the amateur radio community regarding mobile radio operation. 

HF392 and SF46 is "An Act relating to the use of an electronic device in a voice-activated or hands-free mode while driving."  Had this passed and put into law July 1, it would mean  "A person shall not use an electronic device while driving a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway,"  and, "a person does not violate this section by using an electronic device in a voice-activated or hands-free mode."   Further definition clarifies that "verbal or single-touch" commands (possibly PTT?) meet this new requirement, but not nonnavigation, video streaming, or reading an electronic message.   

BUT... thanks to Lee Garner WA0UIG and myself testifying before the house transportation subcommittee in February 2020, item (5) was added to the list of exemptions:  "The provisions of this subsection relating to the use of an electronic device do not apply to the following persons:"  " (5) A person using a two-way radio transmitter or receiver who is licensed with the federal communications commission in amateur radio service."

So at the present time, there is no change to the law, and had it passed, there would be no impact to amateur radio. Cell phone users AND Amateur Radio operators continue to be personally responsible for safe and non-distracted driving. 

ALL of those testifying at the house subcommittee (insurance, bicycling, public safety, and other lobbyists) are in favor of much stronger legal limitations.  The bill died last year when the legislature recessed due to Covid.  However this year it appears that limiting personal liberties in this manner does not have sufficiently broad public and legislative support and will not be voted on this session. 

I should point out that those in the Transportation Subcommittee all acknowledged the valuable role Amateur Radio provides, and recognized that Amateur Radio has never been a problem with distracted driving (that acknowledgement includes both legislators and lobbyists).  This is a huge amount of trust placed on Amateur Radio, and the willingness to continue giving us the responsibility to continue safe operating practices on our own.  We need to be diligent in continuing to operate safely while mobile and continue our role in public service. 

Looking ahead, it appears that next year a "texting bill" will be introduced again.  I've been reassured that the sponsors of this year's bill this year will again include the Amateur Radio exclusion.  You may certainly contact your legislator about this (or any other matter), but if you do, please be sure to mention that you appreciate the recognition Amateur Radio has in receiving an exemption. 

Alan Erickson


ARRL State Government Liaison (IA SGL)