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West Virginia To Turn School Buses Into Ticket Machines
Cameras to be mounted on West Virginia school buses to issue $500 automated tickets.

School bus
Faced with a $120 million budget deficit, West Virginia lawmakers are turning to school buses to bring in desperately needed revenue. The House of Delegates voted 98-0 Saturday to give final approval to House Bill 4223 which allows county school boards to deploy buses to issue $500 automated tickets. The proposal becomes law with the signature of Governor Joe Manchin (D).

"Every county board of education is hereby authorized to mount a camera on any school bus for the purpose of enforcing this section or for any other lawful purpose," House Bill 4223 states.

Private companies have been traveling to school boards around the country offering to install the cameras at no cost. The company would then issue tickets, collect on the fines and deposit a significant cut of the profits into the school board's bank account with no work required on the school's part. The Italian firm Elsag, for example, ran a test of the system in New York state last year. West Virginia's law, however, would require photographing the driver when issuing the citations. For the first ticket, a thirty-day license suspension is mandatory, with a judge having discretion to impose a six-month jail sentence. After a third ticket is mailed, jail time is mandatory. Arizona currently is the only state that jails vehicle owners based solely on the evidence provided by a ticket camera.

Passage of the school bus legislation represents a significant win for photo enforcement lobbyists who snuck the measure through the legislature with very little public scrutiny. Copies of the Senate-amended version of the bill were not made available on the legislature's website.

In 2006, state lawmakers had enacted one of the country's toughest bans on all forms of photo enforcement which was enacted before any vendor had attempted to sell cameras in the state. We asked the six primary sponsors of the photo ticketing ban why they would change their position and vote for the school bus cameras.

"I did support the original legislation in 2006 for two primary reasons," Delegate Bob Beach (D-Monongalia) said in an email. "First, many law enforcement officers opposed the idea fearing job loses. Secondly, many felt technology needed improved to be effective and limit challenges in the court. Today, law enforcement in West Virginia see the technology as a benefit.... I'm pretty confident when I say, that the desired intent of the legislation is not the increased collection of fees, but rather a reduction in lost (children) lives."

State officials insist that the photo enforcement ban is not applicable because "photo monitoring devices" are defined as automated systems. The same officials insist that the school bus drivers would operate the cameras with a button.

"What we, the West Virginia Legislature actually did, was to use school bus cameras as a supportive avenue of evidence of an eyewitness in order to protect school children, not create school bus ticket machines," Delegate Randy Swartzmiller (D-Hancock) said.

A copy of the legislation, as passed by the House and Senate, is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 4223 (West Virginia Legislature, 3/16/2010)

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