1/22/2014Another Texas County Approves Illegal Speed Camera Program
With Texas lawmakers out for a year, traffic camera company pushes speed camera programs throughout the state.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the Arizona-based operator of red light camera and speed camera systems, is daring the Texas legislature to stop it from deploying speed cameras. Lawmakers banned the use of photo radar in 2007, but the company believes it has found a loophole allowing the installation of the prohibited devices on county roads. Since the legislature will not meet in regular session until January 13, 2015, counties are jumping to exploit this narrow window to install speed cameras.
In November, Hidalgo County commissioners voted 5 to 0 in favor of negotiating a contract allowing ATS to install speed cameras after hearing a presentation from ATS lawyer George J. Hittner and ATS salesman Greg Parks. The company would provide all the equipment and do all the work ensuring the county would only profit off the "no cost" deal. ATS would take a 40 percent cut of every fine.
ATS runs red light camera programs in twenty-two Texas cities, and last month, Denton County commissioners voted 3 to 1 in favor of moving forward with the ticketing systems that appear to conflict with the 2007 law.
"A municipality may not implement or operate an automated traffic control system with respect to a highway under its jurisdiction," Transportation Code Section 542.2035 states. "The attorney general shall enforce this subsection."
ATS insists the text only bans a "municipality" from installing speed cameras, and counties are free to do what they wish. Already, state lawmakers are preparing legislation to block this effort in the next special session. Republicans dominate both the state House and state Senate, and the GOP platform specifically calls for outlawing automated ticketing machines.
"We oppose the manner in which alleged vehicle violations are documented and fines levied against individuals without proof of their having been the driver of the offending vehicle and we call for the ban on red light cameras in the state of Texas," the platform states.
Another speed camera company, iTraffic, attempted to exploit a similar loophole in South Carolina in 2010. The state House and state Senate quickly and unanimously voted to outlaw the speed camera program, ending the renegade program. Such a speedy resolution may not happen in Texas, where special sessions are rare. Although lawmakers met in three extra sessions last year, the legislature has not met in an even year since 2006.