3/9/2009Legislative Update: States Debate Photo Ticketing Laws
A number of states consider banning photo radar and red light cameras while others seek to expand the use of automated ticketing machines.
While a handful of states are looking to expand the use of automated ticketing, others are looking to ban the use of speed cameras and red light cameras entirely. For a proposal of either type to become law, an identical bill must pass both chambers of the state legislature and, typically, gain the governor's signature. Only a small number of the proposed bills on the topic will become law, as measures frequently meet the first hurdle without surmounting the second by the session's end.
Limitations on Photo Enforcement
A number of bills that would ban photo ticketing have advanced this year. Mississippi's total ban on red light cameras and speed cameras appears most likely to become law, as House Bill 1568 passed with overwhelming veto-proof margins in both chambers. The state Senate on Friday asked the state House to accept minor amendments made to strengthen the bill. A similar ban has advanced to the Montana state Senate. House Bill 531 passed the state House 65-35 on February 24.
An attempt to ban cameras in Missouri, Senate Bill 211, failed to pass in committee limiting the measure's ultimate chance of success. In Oregon, a more limited measure, House Bill 2701, seeks to eliminate per-ticket compensation for private contractors and to prevent municipalities from earning more than five percent of their annual budget revenue from photo tickets.
The group CameraFraud.com continues to gather citizen support for a referendum that would bypass the state legislature and permanently ban photo ticketing in the state. For reasons that will be detailed in a forthcoming article, state lawmakers are reluctant to adopt a true ban on photo enforcement, despite the strong public pressure urging the end of the controversial ticketing programs.
Expanding Photo Ticketing Through the Budget
A number of state governors have turned to the budget to bypass the normal legislative process and slip speed cameras into a bill that "must pass" by the end of the legislative session. Ohio used this technique to secure a 53-45 House vote to create a statewide freeway photo radar program as part of the 361-page House Bill 2 transportation funding bill. In Wisconsin, the 1743-page Assembly Bill 75 would repeal Wisconsin's existing ban on photo enforcement and replace it with the massive statewide deployment of automated ticketing machines on freeways needed to balance Governor Jim Doyle's budget.
New York and Connecticut will also continue to push for expansion of photo ticketing through the budget process, although similar attempts were unsuccessful last year.
Expansion of Red Light and Speed Camera Programs
Photo ticketing companies are hoping to move into Indiana thanks to the 28-22 state Senate passage of Senate Bill 389, which would let private companies set up red light cameras and split the revenue generated with local jurisdictions. The state Senate in Alabama voted 22-1 in favor of Senate Bill 59 which would retroactively authorize the red light camera program that has operated in the city of Montgomery without state approval. Speed cameras will begin appearing on just about every road in Colorado if the state House goes along with Senate Bill 143 which cleared the Senate on February 23.
Last year, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned before adopting a statewide speed camera bill that had met with the approval of both legislative chambers. Senate Bill 277 awaits action in the current session.