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5/2/2009Florida Red Light Camera Push Narrowly Fails
Red light camera companies vulnerable to lawsuit after legislation offering retroactive protection fails in Florida legislature.
The Florida legislature ended its regular session yesterday without approving a bill to authorize the use of red light cameras statewide. An automated ticketing measure was approved 101-7 in the state House last Wednesday and a similar measure was approved 35-2 in the state Senate last night, but the two bodies were unable to reconcile differences by the session's close. Passage of the bill in the fourth most populous state had been one of the highest priorities of a photo enforcement industry not only interested in expanding business opportunities, but also desperate to head off the potential lawsuits that could force the refund of illegally issued citations, as happened in the state of Minnesota earlier this year.
"Legal opinions indicate that automated enforcement in the state of Florida remains illegal," photo ticketing giant Redflex Traffic Systems explained in an Australian Securities Exchange filing ( view statement, page 6, 1.8mb PDF). "Some competitors have proceeded at risk with early programs."
To mitigate this risk, photo ticketing firms engaged in an unprecedented lobbying campaign, complete with "victim advocacy" groups and the use of well-funded allies from the insurance industry. Their top priority was to provide retroactive protection against a class action lawsuits. State Representative Ron Reagan (R-Bradenton) came to the companies' rescue with language that would retroactively approve any illegally issued citations:
"This act recognizes and ratifies any enforcement action taken by a county or municipality using a traffic infraction detector that was installed before the effective date of this act," the final House version of the bill stated.
The retroactive provision was not part of the Senate version and was the most significant point of difference between the two chambers. The other disagreement came down to how to split up the money generated from the $150 tickets. The last offer from the Senate said that if a private company issued the ticket on state roads, the state would collect all the revenue. If issued on city or county roads, the locality would keep $90 and the state $60. The House wanted the city and county to keep $85 in all cases.
The photo ticketing industry is expected to redouble its efforts to pass the retroactive authorization clause in the next session.
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