2/9/2018Virginia: Camera Cash Recipient Passes Speed Camera Authorization Bill
Virginia state senator takes campaign cash from ATS then passes bill to allow freeway speed cameras.
By a 22 to 18 vote, the Virginia Senate on Thursday decided to bring speed cameras to most of the state's freeways. State Senator Bill Carrico (R-Galax), a recipient of campaign funds from camera provider American Traffic Solutions (ATS), authored the legislation to give state police the ability to set up fully automated cameras on highways marked as construction zones. Whether or not any actual work is being done, the bill would allow private companies like ATS to issue $125 tickets to motorists accused of traveling 12 MPH over speed limits in these zones where the limit has already been lowered by 10 MPH.
Carrico, a former state trooper, serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee which on Wednesday adopted a companion measure, Senate Bill 917, to bring speed cameras to the commonwealth's side streets. If enacted, any local jurisdiction would be able to set up automated ticketing machines "within the vicinity of a school" that would activate at 37 MPH.
"This is basically Senator Carrico's bill, except for school zones," state Senator Amanda F. Chase (R-Midlothian) said on Wednesday. "So if you liked his bill, you'll love mine."
While both bills refer to the use of "handheld" speed cameras, the devices do not have to be operated manually under the legislation. The only requirement is that a police officer be present "around" the school or highway zone while the privately owned machine prepares a ticket that the camera contractor will mail to the vehicle's registered owner. On highways, the profit generated by the program would be split between the state police and companies like ATS.
"I think the funding source for the Virginia State Police -- we've had issues in the past," Chase explained. "It seems like they're always struggling... So why not?"
The committee amended the school zone bill to allow localities to keep their share of the profit. The move is likely to significantly boost state and local budgets. Last year, Virginia's court system generated $361,654,000 from fines and fees -- half of which were generated by speeding tickets.
In addition to supporting Carrico's campaign, ATS hired Eric J. Finkbeiner with Cornerstone Government Affairs to lobby Virginia lawmakers on these public safety measures (see Finkbeiner with Chase after her bill's passage). Finkbeiner, a former top staffer to ex-Governor Bob McDonnell (R), was convicted of drunk driving in 2014 and was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault in the year before that.
This is not the only time Virginia lawmakers have sought to shore up budgets with speeding tickets. In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly enacted an "abuser fee" system that imposed a tax of $1050 on speeding tickets. The move proved to be so unpopular that the legislature was forced to retreat by repealing the law and returning all the money collected within a year.
The highway speed camera bill becomes law if passed by the House of Delegates and signed by Governor Ralph Northam (D). The school zone bill now heads to a full Senate vote.
A copy of SB509 and SB917 is available in a 120k PDF file at the source link below.