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Maryland Governor Vetoes Photo Radar Bill
Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich vetoed a measure that would have allowed speed cameras in the state. Full text of the governor's veto message.

Governor Robert Ehrlich
Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) vetoed a bill on Friday that would have allowed speed cameras to issue tickets to motorists in Montgomery County. At least six jurisdictions in the state currently use red light cameras, but photo radar has never been allowed. The neighboring District of Columbia uses photo radar which helped its combined photo enforcement program to bring in over $100 million in revenue since 1999.

Ehrlich vetoed HB 443 along with two dozen other measures saying doing so was "in the best interest of good policy, sound government and fiscal responsibility for Maryland's citizens." The photo radar bill passed by wide margins in the Democrat controlled House (85-42) and Senate (29-17) in April.

Article Excerpt:

Governor Ehrlich's Veto Messages for House Bill 443

May 20, 2005

The Honorable Michael E. Busch
Speaker of the House of Delegates
State House
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Mr. Speaker:

In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, today I have vetoed House Bill 443 Montgomery County Vehicle Laws Speed Monitoring Systems .

Bill Summary

House Bill 443 allows in Montgomery County the use of speed cameras in residential areas where the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour and in school zones. The owners of motor vehicles detected traveling in excess of 10 miles per hour in these areas are subject to a civil penalty. The civil penalty may not exceed $40 and for purposes of the citation the amount will be prescribed by the District Court. An owner can contest a citation by proving: (1) the motor vehicle was stolen, provided a police report of the theft was filed; (2) that another was operating the motor vehicle, if the owner provides the name, address, and if possible the driver's license number of the operator as well as other corroborating evidence; and (3) any other issues and introducing any other evidence that the District Court deems pertinent. A violation may not be considered a moving violation for purposes of establishing points, may not be recorded on the driving record of the owner, may be considered a parking violation for purposes of refusing to register a vehicle or suspending a vehicle's registration for an unpaid citation, and may not be considered for purposes of motor vehicle insurance coverage.

Veto of House Bill 455 of 2003

In 2003, I vetoed Senate Bill 455 Vehicle Laws Speed Monitoring Systems Radar Cameras . Senate Bill 455 would have allowed statewide the use of radar cameras that House Bill 443 seeks to allow for Montgomery County only. For many of the reasons I vetoed Senate Bill 455 of 2003, I find House Bill 443 to be equally objectionable for Montgomery County.

Trial by Camera

House Bill 443 will allow the State to charge, try, and convict an individual solely through the use of a photograph of a vehicle. This bill takes what has traditionally been a violation of the criminal law, redefines the violation to be a civil offense, lowers the burden of proof to the civil standard, and abridges the right to confront the witnesses against the accused. Further, the procedure that puts the onus on the owner to request the presence of the technician who set up the speed-monitoring device is entirely inadequate.

Privacy Issues

House Bill 443 is another step toward the pervasive use of cameras by the government to monitor and regulate the conduct of its people. There may be times when this type of surveillance is appropriate. I am, however, reluctant to approve its use in the absence of extraordinary circumstances.

Safety Issues

Although proponents assert this bill will improve traffic safety, the evidence on this issue is incomplete. There has been little study of the effectiveness of speed cameras on improving traffic safety. At present, the Transportation Research Board is undertaking a comprehensive study of this issue. On a related issue, Virginia recently refused to reauthorize the use of red light cameras based on a study showing that the use of such cameras increased the risk of accidents. Therefore, it is appropriate to await the results of a thorough study before concluding that speed cameras improve traffic safety.

"Local Bill"

House Bill 443 applies only in Montgomery County. It does, however, have profound statewide ramifications. First, it applies to anyone who drives in Montgomery County. Undoubtedly there are many commuters from other parts of the State and from other states who use these roads on a daily basis. Second, Montgomery County would be the first jurisdiction in the State to be granted this authority. This would establish a precedent for other counties to seek this authority and, accordingly, is the first step to a statewide system.

Residential Districts

House Bill 443 applies to residential districts with a maximum posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour. Section 21-101 of the Transportation Article defines a residential district as "an area that: (1) is not a business district; and (2) adjoins and includes a highway where the property along the highway for a distance of at least 300 feet is improved mainly with residences or residences and buildings used for business."

Information received from the Department of Transportation shows there are many State highways that would qualify as "residential areas" under the bill, some of which are four and six lane highways. These include parts of Connecticut Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and Viers Mill Road. Hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets could be issued daily on these roadways to people who are simply traveling with the flow of traffic. In this regard, the District of Columbia government web page contains a statement dated March 18, 2004, boasting that in the first 15 days of operation a single stationary speed camera found more than 10,000 motorists to be speeding.

Revenue Enhancement Issues

The advocates of House Bill 443 are sincere in their desire for increased highway safety, a goal on which we can all agree. It is clear that for governments, however, speed cameras are also an effective revenue raising measure. In January of this year The Washington Times published a letter from District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams urging the City Council to approve a contract for a speed camera vendor, stating: "There is an urgent need for the approval of this contract to ensure the continued processing of District tickets and the collection of District revenues." There was no mention of traffic safety in his letter. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department web page states that since the speed camera program began in July 2001, over $72 million has been collected. In March 2005 more than 31,000 violations were sent out and nearly $2 million was collected.

The Fiscal and Policy Note to House Bill 443 states that for Montgomery County "revenues would increase significantly and expenditures would also increase." In fiscal year 2006 revenues are estimated to be $6.3 million, with expenditures of $4.6 million. As the experience in the District of Columbia clearly shows, once a jurisdiction begins to use the cameras and receives the increased revenues, expanding the program becomes a logical progression. As the experience with the District of Columbia also shows, the rationale for the expansion may be purely monetary.

Impact on District Court

I am also concerned about the effect House Bill 443 would have on the District Court. The Maryland Judicial Conference opposed this bill before the General Assembly on the basis that it would have "a substantial impact on the District Court." Although the actual number of citations to be issued is unknown, it is clear that a significant number will increase court dockets, trial time, clerical time, and possibly result in the need for costly computer programming changes.

National Use of Speed Cameras

Since my veto of Senate Bill 455 in 2003, the use of speed cameras in the United States remains limited to five states plus the District of Columbia. In the eastern part of the country (in addition to the District of Columbia) only in the state of New York in cities with a population over 1,000,000 are speed cameras authorized. As stated above, Virginia has repealed the use of red light cameras. There is clearly no national trend in support of speed cameras.

For the above stated reasons, I have vetoed House Bill 443.

Very truly yours,

Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.


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