BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The House will debate a proposal to ban drivers from talking on their cell phones during school zone hours, after the measure won the narrow backing Tuesday of the House Transportation Committee.

Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said his bill (House Bill 370) would help ensure the safety of children. He described it as a minor inconvenience for drivers who would need to hang up briefly while driving through school zones during posted hours.

"When you are in a school zone, I like for you to have both of your hands on the wheel," Thompson said.

Rep. Jerry "Truck" Gisclair, D-Larose, opposed the proposal, saying that drivers already are required to slow down in school zones to ensure safety.

"People are driving safely with our cell phones," he said.

The transportation committee voted 8-7 to move the bill to the full House for debate.

If passed into law, violators would face a fine up to $175 on a first offense, then up to $500 on subsequent offenses. If the driver is involved in a crash while on a cell phone, the fine would be doubled.

In other legislative action:

—The Senate voted 34-0 for a proposal that would remove a requirement that judges must retire after reaching age 70 and completing their current terms. The bill (Senate Bill 11) by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, heads to the House for debate. If approved there, the constitutional change also would require approval from voters in a statewide election. The House rejected a similar proposal last year.

Smoking would be banned within 200 feet of an elementary or secondary school in Louisiana, under a bill that received a 36-0 vote from the Senate. The measure (Senate Bill 514) by Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, heads next to the House for consideration. Violators would face a fine of $25 on a first offense, then $50 on a second offense and $100 on subsequent offenses.

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