6/4/2008New York: Lobbyist Sparks U-Turns on Cameras
Lobbyist convinces assembly red light camera foe to embrace red light cameras. Negative publicity then forces that lawmaker to drop his embrace.
One of the most powerful New York state lawmakers has reversed himself twice on the question of red light cameras. State Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gantt (D-Rochester), a long-time foe of red light cameras, last month changed his tune and introduced AB10948, legislation that would allow any county in the state to operate red light cameras. Currently, their use is only permitted in New York City.
The abrupt change of position raised eyebrows, as did the provision in his legislation mandating that the only red light camera systems authorized must use "radar-based down-the-road speed measurement methods in which a photograph is taken coincident to, or as near as possible to, the location of, recorded speed measurements." The Buffalo News reported yesterday that these provisions describe the technology used by Sensys Traffic, a Swedish company interested in breaking into the US traffic camera market through the Albany firm CMA Consulting Services. The latter paid Robert Scott Gaddy $80,000 to lobby Gantt. Gaddy happens to be Gantt's former legislative counsel for transportation committee issues.
To make it clear that the legislation was specifically designed to help Sensys and CMA, it outlaws the technologies used by rival companies.
"Such demonstration program shall not utilize vehicle sensors of the following types: video, virtual loops, laser-based, across-the-road radar, in-the-road embedded or surface mount or additional road markings," Gantt's legislation stated.
Eliminating laser sensors ensures Georgia-based Lasercraft cannot be awarded any lucrative photo ticketing contracts. Financially troubled Nestor Inc from Rhode Island relies upon video technology, which is also banned. Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) of Dallas uses in-the-road sensors which are banned. The market leading rivals, Arizona's American Traffic Systems and Australia's Redflex, each use a number of systems that depend on the banned techniques.
This is not the first time that legislation has been used to reward red light camera lobbyists. In 2005, the Pennsylvania legislature likewise adopted legislation mandating "wet film" be used for ticketing so that ACS would be favored over rivals like Redflex that use digital cameras. ACS had hired some of the most powerful lobbyists in the state capital.
In light of the publicity from the Buffalo News story, Gantt temporarily pulled his legislation from committee consideration. View the full text of Gantt's legislation.