ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The New York Senate approved a measure that would make the state the first in the nation to ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones.
The approval came Thursday night after Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders said an agreement on the proposal had been reached. The Assembly was to take it up on Monday.
``Finally, we will get the bird back in the cage,'' said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who began his campaign for the ban in 1996 amid his colleagues' snickers. ``People were making a lot of fun of me, but it eventually became not only an issue at the state level, but on the national level.''
Lawmakers embraced the notion after independent polls showed New Yorkers favoring the ban by a wide margin. A March poll from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that 87 percent of New York voters supported a ban.
Several counties across the state have already enacted such bans. Thirty-nine other states are considering similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Violators of the New York law could be fined up to $100 beginning in December.
If approved and signed by Pataki, the New York proposal would take effect Nov. 1, but violators would get only a verbal warning for a month. Those nabbed after Dec. 1 would be ticketed, but they could get that dismissed through February by showing a receipt for a hands-free system.