The Maine House of Representatives again rejected a bill Wednesday that would prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones behind the wheel. As a result, the measure is likely dead for the year unless a sudden political shift takes place in the chamber.

The Maine Senate voted more than a month ago to pass the bill, which would expand Maine’s current prohibition on texting while driving to also ban talking on a handheld cellphone. The penalty, as originally proposed, would have been a $250 fine on first offense and $500 on subsequent offenses but was later amended by the Senate to lower the fines to $75 and $150, respectively.

But the House rejected the measure a week later. Since then, the bill has bounced back and forth between the House and Senate, with both chambers insisting on their respective positions.

Another attempt Wednesday to pass the bill in the House failed on a 65-82 vote, after considerable debate.

“You can’t legislative common sense,” said Rep. Richard Pickett, R-Dixfield. “We have a law that is already on the books right now for distracted driving. The law enforcement community, if we have to do something, has to do a better job of enforcing that.”

But supporters of the bill, L.D. 185, cited studies showing the dangers of talking on a handheld cellphone while driving, including some research suggesting that the effects of the activity are on par with driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal threshold for impaired driving.

“We do, in fact, legislate common sense in this building,” said Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner. “We have required people to wear seatbelts. We have required people to do a lot of things with regard to driving because they are life-saving laws.”

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