Impact on Amateur Radio From Distracted Driving Bill

MA State HouseThe outpouring of concern statewide from the Amateur Radio Community regarding the impact of the Distracted Driving Law has gotten the attention of our Legislators on Beacon Hill in Boston. Ray, KB1LRL, and Tom, K1TW, wish to thank all the ARRL members in both Western and Eastern Massachusetts who communicated our concerns so effectively as a community to the Senators and Representatives and staff across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

This afternoon Tom Walsh, K1TW, Eastern Massachusetts Section Manager was contacted by the General Counsel of the Joint Committee on Transportation. After discussing these concerns, Ray and Tom were asked to convey the following guidance to our members in both Eastern and Western Massachusetts sections. This guidance is intended to assure everyone that the new law “permits use of a “federally licensed 2–way radio” provided that “1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times.”. Clearly this is good news.

We are pleased to receive this opinion in writing which states “that a person may operate a motor vehicle while using a federally licensed 2–way radio or mobile telephone, except as provided in sections 8M, 12A and 13B, as long as 1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times”.

This statement above appears in the first sentence of Section 13, of the Massachusetts General Laws as referenced in the final bill.

Below is the full text as received today from the General Counsel of the Joint Committee on Transportation. It is the best clarification we have in writing at this point that the law will not apply to a 2-way mobile radio operation.

Ray Lajoie, KB1LRL
ARRL Section Manager Western Massachusetts

Tom Walsh, K1TW
ARRL Section Manager Eastern Massachusetts


General Counsel of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Thank you very much for the chance to speak earlier concerning H4203, the distracted driving legislation that is now before the Governor. It is the Committee’s view that the legislation does not alter, amend or limit existing language in section 13 of chapter 90 of the General Laws that expressly permits use of a “federally licensed 2–way radio” provided that “1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times.” I have reproduced GL 90:13 below and highlighted the relevant provision.

Section 13: Safety precautions for proper operation and parking of vehicles and buses

Section 13. No person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be on or in the vehicle or on or about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operator or controlled, except that a person may operate a motor vehicle while using a federally licensed 2–way radio or mobile telephone, except as provided in sections 8M, 12A and 13B, as long as 1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times. No person having control or charge of a motor vehicle, except a person having control or charge of a police, fire or other emergency vehicle in the course of responding to an emergency or a person having control or charge of a motor vehicle while engaged in the delivery or acceptance of goods, wares or merchandise for which the vehicle’s engine power is necessary for the loading or unloading of such goods, wares or merchandise, shall allow such vehicle to stand in any way and remain unattended without stopping the engine of said vehicle, effectively setting the brakes thereof or making it fast, and locking and removing the key from the locking device and from the vehicle. Whenever a bus having a seating capacity of more than seven passengers, a truck weighing, unloaded, more than four thousand pounds, or a tractor, trailer, semi-trailer or combination thereof, shall be parked on a way, on a grade sufficient to cause such vehicle to move of its own momentum, and is left unattended by the operator, one pair of adequate wheel safety chock blocks shall be securely placed against the rear wheels of such vehicle so as to prevent movement thereof. The provisions of the preceding sentence shall not apply to a vehicle equipped with positive spring-loaded air parking brakes. No person shall drive any motor vehicle equipped with any television viewer, screen or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast which is located in the motor vehicle at any point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or which is visible to the driver while operating such motor vehicle. Whoever operates a motorcycle on the ways of the commonwealth shall ride only upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, and he shall not carry any other person, nor allow any other person to ride, on such motorcycle unless it is designed to carry more than one person, in which case a passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat if such seat is designed for two persons, or upon another seat which is intended for a passenger and is firmly attached to the motorcycle to the rear of the operator if proper foot rests are provided for the passenger’s use, or upon a seat which is intended for a passenger and is firmly attached to the motorcycle in a side car. No person shall operate a motor vehicle, commonly known as a pick-up truck, nor shall the owner permit it to be operated, for a distance more than five-miles, in excess of five-miles per hour, with persons under twelve years of age in the body of such truck, unless such truck is part of an official parade, or has affixed to it a legal ”Owner Repair” or ”Farm” license plate or a pick-up truck engaged in farming activities. No person, except firefighters or garbage collectors, or operators of fire trucks or garbage trucks, or employees of public utility companies, acting pursuant to and during the course of their duties, or such other persons exempted by regulation from the application of this section or by limited application by special permit granted by the selectmen in a town or of the city council in a city, shall hang onto the outside of, or the rear-end of any vehicle, and no person on a pedacycle, motorcycle, roller skates, sled, or any similar device, shall hold fast or attach the device to any moving vehicle, and no operator of a motor vehicle shall knowingly permit any person to hang onto or ride on the outside or rear-end of the vehicle or streetcar, or allow any person on a pedacycle, motorcycle, roller skates, sled, or any similar device, to hold fast or attach the device to the motor vehicle operated on any highway. No person or persons, except firefighters acting pursuant to their official duties, or a person exempted by regulation from the application of this section or by application by special permit granted by the board of selectmen in a town or by the city council in a city, shall occupy a trailer or semi-trailer while such trailer or semi-trailer is being towed, pushed or drawn or is otherwise in motion upon any way. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing headphones, unless said headphones are used for communication in connection with controlling the course or movement of said vehicle.

General Counsel
Joint Committee on Transportation
State House Room 134 Boston, MA 02133

Hands-free Legislation, November 19, 2019, Additional Update

Based on information we have recently received, it may be time to contact your State Representatives concerning the MA Distracted Driving Bill. Over the weekend, Ray, KB1LRL and Tom, K1TW posted on both the WMA and EMA websites.

Concerns are being raised across the section’s asking what the impact this bill has on amateur radio in the state. Since the hands-free bills were first filed, Eastern Massachusetts ARRL State Government Liaison, Hank W4RIG, has been closely coordinating with Senator Bruce Tarr, who is the Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader and a radio amateur. Previously the Senator’s office reported to Hank that Amateur Radio operation would not be impacted by earlier versions of the bill.

With the hands-free bill finally clearing committee on the weekend and ready for a vote, I asked Hank to contact the Senators office once again. Hank reports he has been in touch with the staff at Senator Tarr’s office and with these most recent changes they can no longer confirm there will be no impact on amateur radio mobile operation.

Our understanding is the problem results from the substitution in the final text from committee of “mobile electronic device” in place of “mobile telephone”. In the original wording, the definition of a mobile telephone in Massachusetts General Law specifically excludes amateur radios and citizen band radios. The definition in Massachusetts General Law of “mobile electronic device” does not contain any exclusion for amateur radios and citizen band radios.

Senator Tarr’s office said they are trying to correct this.

This may be an appropriate time to contact your Massachusetts Representative and Senator politely asking them to incorporate the same words to exclude amateur radio from the revised bill as was previously contained in the definition of mobile telephone.

Ray Lajoie, KB1LRL SM WMA
Tom Walsh K1TW SM EMA

MA Lawmakers Announce Surprise Agreement on Distracted Driving Legislation

Boston — After several years and failed attempts, Massachusetts lawmakers have taken a major step toward enacting a law to restrict the use of handheld electronic devices by drivers.

State Rep. Bill Straus and state Sen. Joe Boncore issued a statement late Friday (November 15, 2019) announcing the six-member conference committee had reached an agreement on the bill, although they did not reveal the text of the final compromise.


In July, the committee appeared to have reached an impasse after Senate negotiators refused to sign off on details that House lawmakers thought had been resolved. Earlier that day, Straus and Boncore had announced an “agreement in principle,” but it vanished within hours as the two sides debated wording of the bill. 

[Full story]

Thanks for the EMA ARRL website for the first post of this news.

“Triple Play:” MA Hams Receive Amateur Radio Proclamations, Resolutions from House, Senate, and Governor

This reposted from the Eastern MA ARRL website:

Massachusetts ARRL staff received copies of proclamations and resolutions congratulating the Amateur Radio community for its service to the Commonwealth, and for the upcoming annual Field Day exercise June 22-23, 2019. 

The Massachusetts House of Representatives document “offers its sincerest congratulations to the American Radio Relay League in recognition of The ARRL Field Day and the Tireless Work of Amateur Radio Operators.” The document was signed by Robert A. DeLeo, Speaker of the House.

The Massachusetts State Senate weighed in with a resolution, adopted May 9, 2019. “[The Senate] extends its appreciation to Amateur Radio operators as they celebrate Amateur Radio Week and Field Day.” The resolution was signed by Senate President Karen E. Spilka and Michael D. Hurley, Senate Clerk. It was offered by Senator Bruce E. Tarr (N1UIU), who represents the 1st Essex and Middlesex District.

The Governor’s Office issued a proclamation proclaiming June 22, 2019 to be “Amateur Radio Day” in the Commonwealth. The proclamation was signed by His Excellency Charles D. Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth, Karyn E. Polito, Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth, and William Francis Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth.

MA State Government Liaison Hank McCarl, W4RIG, was instrumental in securing the three documents.

Copies of the documents will be delivered to Tom Walsh, K1TW, and Ray Lajoie, KB1LRL, ARRL Section Managers for Eastern and Western Massachusetts, respectively; and to ARRL New England Division Director Fred Hopengarten, K1VR.  K1TW plans to bring the copies with him for display as he tours various Field Day sites around the section

2019 MA House Resolution on Amateur Radio Operators

2019 MA Senate Resolution on Amateur Radio Operators

2019 MA Governor's Proclamation on Amateur Radio Day

Proposed MA Legislation Seeks to Require “Hands-free” Cell Phone Use While Driving

This news was originally written and posted on the Eastern MA ARRL website.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday “proposed his most sweeping set of road safety rules yet, calling for Massachusetts to join 16 other states in requiring hands-free cell phone use while driving and proposing to allow police to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt,” according to Boston’s PBS station, WGBH.

Various pieces of “hands-free” cell phone legislation have been introduced in recent years by members of the State House and Senate and while some have included clear exemptions for Amateur Radio operators, others have been vague or non-existent on the matter.

Eastern MA State Government Liaison Hank McCarl, W4RIG, quickly alerted ARRL section and division leadership about the proposed legislation. 

McCarl reports he has already spoken with his State Senator’s office legislative assistant about the ARRL’s concerns regarding the wording of proposed legislation on hand held cell phones while driving. They “will keep a close eye on the wording of that legislation and let us know if there seems to be any problems for our mobile operations as licensed amateurs in community service or training,” McCarl said.

ARRL Headquarters Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1NC was also notified of the proposed legislation by Eastern MA Section Manager Tom Walsh, K1TW.

Details about Baker’s proposed hands-free cell phone and other road safety rules can be found at <>.

ARRL Request to Contact Your US Senators Supporting S1534 – the Amateur Radio Parity Act

Dear ARRL member,

I am writing to you today because we are at a crossroad in our efforts to obtain passage of The Amateur Radio Parity Act.

Our legislative efforts scored a major victory in our campaign when The Amateur Radio Parity Act, S. 1534 now moves to the Senate, where we need every Senator to approve the bill. This is the companion Bill to H.R. 555, which passed in the House of Representatives in January.

You are one of over 730,000 licensed Amateur Radio Operators living in the United States. Many of you already live in deed-restricted communities, and that number grows daily.


If you want to have effective outdoor antennas but are not currently allowed to do so by your Home Owner’s Association, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

If you already have outdoor antennas, but want to support your fellow hams, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

If you want to preserve your ability to install effective outdoor antennas on property that you own, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

We need you to reach out to your Senators TODAY! Right away.

Help us in the effort. Please go to this linked website and follow the prompts:

Thank you.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Rick Roderick, K5UR
ARRL – The national association for Amateur Radio®

QST to All Massachusetts Hams – S1685 Needs You!

recently received a personalized note from ARRL President Kay Craigie N3KN regarding how important Massachusetts amateur radio operators are for the passage of S. 1685, The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015 right now.  She writes:

We are at a critical time for S. 1685, The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, in the United States Senate. There is reason to think this legislation will be considered in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation as early as next week. That is an extremely important step in the bill’s progress towards success.
We have learned that opponents of the legislation have urged their members to contact members of the Senate committee to communicate what can only be called bald-faced lies about the bill’s intent and effects.

A number of steps are being taken to counteract those lies. We have to remind the Senators on the committee that amateur radio operators in their states want them to support the bill. I’m asking for your help as Section Manager.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey is on the Commerce committee.

It is quick and easy to do what needs to be done.

Please phone the Senator’s office in Washington, DC, at or phone a local office. Or send an e-mail to the Senator using his official web page.

The message is simple: “I’m a constituent and an amateur radio operator. I urge Senator Markey to support S. 1685, the Amateur Radio Parity Act, when it comes up for a vote in committee on November 18th. Thank you.”

The Senator’s Washington, DC, phone number is posted at

His own web page showing local office numbers is at

Whether you phone or e-mail, the key thing is to do it now. As in, today.

If your Section has a web page or Facebook page, please this appeal there today. Whatever you can do to urge ARRL members in Massachusetts to contact the Senator right now and urge his support will be very important and deeply appreciated.

Sincere thanks and 73, Kay N3KN

Regardless if you are an ARRL member or not, if you are a licensed amateur radio operator living within Massachusetts, please consider following through with President Craigie’s request. Let’s show our support for our fellow amateurs that need this bill passed to put up a decent antenna system!

President Craigie also wrote directly to the Senate subcommittee yesterday on the ARRL’s behalf.  This can be viewed at:

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