A bill that would impose tougher penalties for texting or using a hand-held mobile phone while driving has passed a key legislative committee.

The Judiciary Committee voted 23-20 on Thursday to approve the measure, which allows police officers to seize a repeat offender’s driver’s license for 24 hours, as they can in alcohol-related cases.

New Canaan Rep. John Hetherington wanted to require an officer to seize the license, but that part of the bill was amended to give police the discretion. Some lawmakers said the original requirement gave police too much power.

The bill, which also increases the penalty for repeat violators of the ban from $150 to $500, moves to the House of Representatives.

Connecticut first banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in 2005.


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