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5/16/2007
Texas House Votes to Sunset Red Light Cameras
The Texas House of Representatives would eliminate red light cameras by 2009 unless cities could prove the devices reduce accidents.

Carl Isett
The Texas House of Representatives yesterday crafted a compromise measure aimed at eliminating red light cameras in the state. The legislative body adopted a series of amendments to Senate Bill 1119 requiring cities to produce concrete evidence whether the devices reduce accidents or merely are revenue raisers. Unless the legislature is convinced of the latter by September 1, 2009, the cameras would be unplugged. The House adopted the sunset language by an 81-55 vote.

On several past occasions, the House has overwhelmingly voted to ban photo enforcement outright, only to narrowly fail to achieve consensus with the state Senate. The new attempt, spearheaded by Representative Carl Isett (R-Lubbock), is designed to give cities legal authority to collect two years' worth of revenue -- worth several million dollars -- before the likely prospect that the systems would shut down.

Specifically, the adopted amendments require the Texas Department of Transportation to collect and publish annual reports containing the before and after results of camera usage. The reports would document the number of red light violations at camera and non-camera intersections along with the number and types of intersection accidents so that a comparative analysis can be made.

Motorists would also be protected against late-payment fees for lost mail as the city would have to provide notice using certified mail. Cities would also have to spring for postage and provide pre-addressed envelopes for payment. Anyone contesting a citation could request a trial by a jury of his peers and demand that the individual responsible for camera maintenance testify in court about the upkeep and accuracy of the ticketing machine. The bill also requires warning signs to be posted at intersections using the cameras.

The measure, after likely adoption in its final form by the House, must be reconciled with an earlier version that passed 27-3 in the state Senate last month. UPDATE: The legislature ultimately enacted a version of the bill with the sunset and jury trial provisions removed.

Article Excerpt:
New Provisions to SB 1119, as adopted:

Amendment 1
(f) A local authority shall report results of the traffic engineering study required by Subsection (c) to a citizen advisory committee consisting of one person appointed by each member of the governing body of the local authority. The committee shall advise the local authority on the installation and operation of a photographic traffic signal enforcement system established under this chapter.

Amendment 2
(f) A local authority or the person the local authority contracts for the administration and enforcement of a photographic traffic signal enforcement system may not provide information about a civil penalty imposed under this chapter to a credit bureau, as defined by Section 392.001, Finance Code.

Amendment 3
(f) Before installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at an intersection approach, the local authority shall report the number and type of traffic accidents that occur annually at the intersection.

(g) After installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at an intersection approach, the local authority shall monitor and report the number and type of traffic accidents at the intersection to determine whether the system results in a reduction in accidents or a reduction in the severity of accidents.

Amendment 4
(e) On the written request of the person who files a timely request for administrative adjudication hearing under this section, an officer or employee of the local authority or of the entity with which the local authority contracts under Section 707.003(a)(1) who is responsible for inspecting and maintaining the photographic traffic signal enforcement system used to produce the recorded image of the motor vehicle involved in the violation must appear at the hearing.

(2) In SECTION 1 of the bill, in proposed Section 707.009, Transportation Code (page 9, line 14), strike "(e) The" and substitute "(f) If a request is not made under Subsection (e), the" and reletter subsequent subsections of proposed Section 707.009, Transportation Code, accordingly.


Amendment 5
On page 1, line 21, strike "and". On page 2, line 2, insert the following:

(c) does not include a video camera that continuously transmits or records the images of all vehicles that pass through an intersection.

On page 3, line 17, insert the following:

(f) A local authority that contracts for the administration and enforcement of a photographic traffic signal enforcement system shall ensure that the system only photographs vehicles that have violated or are suspected of violating a traffic-control signal.

(g) A local authority may not operate a video camera that continuously transmits or records the images of all vehicles that pass through an intersection."


Amendment 6 (changes marked in bold)
Sec.A707.007. NO ADMISSION OF LIABILITY. A person who fails to pay the civil penalty or to contest liability for the penalty in a timely manner or who requests an administrative adjudication hearing to contest the imposition of the civil penalty against the person and fails to appear at that hearing does not:
(1) admit liability for the full amount of the civil penalty stated in the notice of violation mailed to the person; and
(2) waive the person's right to appeal the imposition of the civil penalty.
...
In SECTION 1 of the bill, in proposed Section 707.009, Transportation Code (page 9, line 24), strike "and in an appeal under Section 707.011".

...
(e) An appeal under this section shall be determined by the court or jury, at the election of the owner, by trial de novo.
...
(d) An appeal stays enforcement and collection of the civil penalty imposed against the owner. The owner of the motor vehicle shall file a promise to pay affidavit to perfect the owner's appeal.
...
...the county assessor-collector or the Texas Department of Transportation may not refuse to register a motor vehicle alleged to have been involved in the violation.
...
In SECTION 1 of the bill, in proposed Section 707.013, Transportation Code (page 12, lines 5 and 6), strike "(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the" and substitute "The".
...
The following provision from the bill is deleted: "(b) The imposition of a civil penalty under this chapter is a conviction for the purposes of Chapter 708."
...
Strike SECTION 2 of the bill (page 12, line 25, through page 13, line 11) and renumber subsequent SECTIONS of the bill accordingly. [This section gave section 707 jurisdiction to justice courts outside of a municipality's territorial limits.]


Amendment 7
In SECTION 1 of the bill, in proposed Section 707.002, Transportation Code (page 2, line 6), strike "The" and substitute "(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the".
...
The governing body of a local authority may not implement or operate a photographic traffic signal enforcement system after September 1, 2009, unless the legislature specifically authorizes a system to operate after that date.
...
Sec. 707.016. REPORT OF RED LIGHT VIOLATIONS AND ACCIDENTS. (a) In this section, "department" means the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas.

(b) The department by rule shall require a local authority that implements a photographic traffic signal enforcement system under this chapter to report to the department not later than October 1 of each year:

(1) the number of accidents and red light violations at each intersection operating a photographic traffic signal enforcement system; and

(2) the number of accidents and red light violations at each intersection that does not operate a photographic traffic signal enforcement system.

(c) The report must be in writing in the form prescribed by the department.

(d) Not later than December 1 of each year, the department shall publish the information submitted by a local authority under Subsection (a).

...
SECTION ____. (a) Not later than January 1, 2008, the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas shall adopt rules as required by Section 707.016, Transportation Code, as added by this Act.

(b) The reporting and publication requirements imposed by Section 707.016, Transportation Code, as added by this Act, apply only to a year beginning on or after January 1, 2008.

Amendment 8
(2) prohibit a peace officer from arresting a violator of Section 544.007(d) as provided by Chapter 543 or from issuing the violator a citation and notice to appear as provided by that chapter if the peace officer personally witnesses the violation.

Amendment 9
(1) In SECTION 1 of the bill, in added Subdivision (9), Subsection (c), Section 707.006, Transportation Code (page 6, line 3), strike "and".

(2) In SECTION 1 of the bill, in added Subdivision (10), Subsection (c), Section 707.006, Transportation Code (page 6, line 16), strike the underlined period and substitute ";and".

(3) In SECTION 1 of the bill, following Subdivision (10), Subsection (c), Section 707.006, Transportation Code (page 6, between lines 16 and 17), insert the following:

"(11) a preprinted, self-addressed, postage-paid envelope for the payment of the civil penalty."

Amendment 10
...the designated department, agency, or office of the local authority or the entity with which the local authority contracts under Section 707.003(a)(1) shall mail, by certified mail return receipt requested, the notice of violation to the owner...

Amendment 11
(f) The municipality shall install signs along each roadway that leads to an intersection at which a photographic traffic monitoring system is in active use. The signs must be at least 100 feet from the intersection or located according to standards established in the manual adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission under Section 544.001, be easily readable to any operator approaching the intersection, and clearly indicate the presence of a photographic monitoring system that records violations that may result in the issuance of a notice of violation and the imposition of a monetary penalty.

Amendment 12

Delete the following: (d) A notice of violation is presumed to have been received on the fifth day after the date the notice is mailed.

Delete the following: Sec.A707.012. ENFORCEMENT. If the owner of a motor vehicle is delinquent in the payment of a civil penalty imposed under this chapter, the county assessor-collector or the Texas Department of Transportation may refuse to register a motor vehicle alleged to have been involved in the violation.

Delete the following: (b) The imposition of a civil penalty under this chapter is a conviction for the purposes of Chapter 708.


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