3/11/2010Louisiana Lawmaker Proposes Local Votes For All Traffic Camera Programs
Louisiana legislators propose a series of measures to ban traffic cameras or put them to a public vote.
Local governments that use red light cameras and speed cameras would be forced put the future of these efforts to a public vote under a proposal by a team of Louisiana state lawmakers. Led by Representative Jeff Arnold (D-Algiers), a bipartisan team of seven on Monday pre-filed legislation to rein in the use of automated enforcement systems.
Arnold's preference is to ban them outright with House Bill 160, but he prepared an alternative measure designed to be more attractive to his colleagues with close ties to local government. House Bill 159 would require a referendum before any automated ticketing machine could issue fines in a local city or parish.
"You can't argue with giving the people a right to decide," Arnold told TheNewspaper. "I'm not making the decision, the people are. When people are given a choice on this issue -- as happened in Sulphur, Louisiana -- they vote over 80 percent, 'No, we don't want traffic cameras.'"
Arnold explained that this measure would force automated ticketing advocates to live up to their own rhetoric.
"People who support these cameras say that there's strong public support for it," Arnold said. "If you think you're right and people support these, go ahead and put it up for a vote. Let's see what it gets you.... If Lafayette votes 'yes, we like our cameras' then they can keep them, but if Orleans votes 'no,' then they're gone."
Last year, the House by a 56-26 margin voted down an amendment to ban photo ticketing outright. Arnold explained that lawmakers did not like the idea of adding the camera ban to an unrelated piece of legislation during an abbreviated session. This time, the House will have plenty of time to consider free-standing legislation. As one of the most senior members and chairman of the powerful Commerce committee, Arnold expects his proposals will receive a fair hearing in the committee of jurisdiction.
"I've talked to some members on the Transportation committee who voted against this last time who are now looking to vote for the bill," Arnold explained. "They're coming to the understanding that this is really a cash grab as opposed to a safety issue."
Arnold intends to introduce two more versions of his legislation in case the ban and referendum efforts falter. One bill would ban the use of cameras on state-funded highways and roads. Another would require any tickets go before a judicial proceeding before an elected traffic judge, as opposed to an administrative hearing officer who works as an employee of the local jurisdiction.
The Louisiana State Legislature's legislative session begins on March 29. A copy of the pre-filed House Bill 160 is available in a PDF file at the source link below.