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Dead officer's father-in-law calls out AZ lawmakers as texting ban stalls

He urges citizens to call representatives. Bill sponsor 'not backing down.' Arizona 1 of 3 states without texting ban.


The father-in-law of a Valley police officer killed by a man accused of texting while driving is calling out lawmakers standing in the way of a texting ban on Arizona roads

“There have been too many deaths, too many accidents, too many consequences from people texting and driving. and they think it's OK and it's not,” Peter Johnson told 12 News on Tuesday, as the texting ban stalled in the House of Representatives.

“Call your representative, call your senator," he said. "Tell them you want them to support this bill. Get this through.”

Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend was killed three months ago when he was struck on the Loop 101. He left behind his wife and year-old son.

Within days, state lawmakers went to work on a texting ban. Gov. Doug Ducey pledged to sign it into law. 

Johnson has testified twice at the Capitol about what the ban would mean to his family. 

It looked like this would be the year a ban became law -- after many failed attempts blocked by Republicans in the past.

Arizona is one of just three states without a ban on texting while driving. (Several Valley communities have enacted their own bans.)

Today, there are two virtually identical bills at the Legislature, both passed by the Senate yet stalled in the House. The second bill, HB2318, passed Monday by the Senate, offers a shorter route to final passage and the governor’s desk - a single vote by House members.


Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers has to decide whether to let either texting ban go to a vote, over the objections of many of his fellow Republicans. 

Several Republicans say the bill is too punitive or represents a government intrusion.

“It's always met this kind of resistance. I've never seen this level of support,” said the original bill’s sponsor, GOP State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix. 

The bipartisan bill that passed Monday overcame nine “no” votes by Republicans.

“I'm not going to back down,” Brophy McGee said.