While several states, counties and regions are making the use of hand-held cellular phones illegal while driving, a bill banning motorists from using hand-held cell phones was quietly pushed away yesterday by the Connecticut state senate.

Without a debate or a vote, the legislature's 22-member public safety committee refused to take up the issue because it said not enough lawmakers on the committee supported the measure. Although the cell-phone ban was on the agenda along with other bills referred from the House and Senate, it was not acted on, and therefore died from neglect.

“They knew what they were doing by sending it to this committee,” said Rep. Richard F. Roy (D), who has pushed the issue since 1999. “I will bring it back next year - no doubt about it.”

Just two weeks ago, the state’s House of Representatives became the first legislative chamber in the U.S. to approve a bill requiring drivers to use hands-free equipment. But when the bill reached the Senate last week, the leaders referred it to the public safety committee.

Roy's cell phone crusade gained momentum this year after a Quinnipiac University Poll found 85% of residents supported a ban.

The bill also did not get the backing of Gov. John G. Rowland (R) or senate president pro tem Kevin B. Sullivan (D). About a half-dozen industry lobbyists, including former Democratic house speaker Richard J. Balducci, who represents Nextel Communications, also worked together to kill the bill.

Roy's bill would have created $75 infractions for each violation. It would have taken effect on January 1, 2002, and have exempted school bus drivers, police and civilian drivers using hand-held devices to call emergency personnel.