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Florida Governor Urged To Veto Red Light Camera Bill
Former staffer, NMA and AAA urge Florida governor to veto red light camera bill. Wall Street firm to win big on signature.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
A surprisingly vigorous effort is being made to urge Florida Governor Charlie Crist to veto the red light camera authorization bill passed by the legislature last month (view bill). The normally pro-camera group AAA launched a nine-page assault on the legislation in a letter to Crist last week. The group was joined yesterday by Crist's former regional campaign chairman, state Representative Tom Grady (R-Naples). Crist has until May 14 to sign or veto the red light camera bill which would devote more money to the Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs than it would to public safety.

"Other than $13 from each citation earmarked for public health purposes ($3 to Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund and $10 to Department of Health), HB 325 does not require that funds received from violations -- by the state, counties or municipalities -- be used for public safety purposes," AAA Auto Club South Senior Vice President Kevin Bakewell wrote.

American Traffic Solutions (ATS) runs the cameras in over thirty cities in return for a share of the revenue generated. Aventura, Collier County, Naples, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach opted to compensate ATS at a tiered rate that starts at $47.50 for each ticket that the company issues. In 2008, Goldman took a thirty percent stake in ATS meaning the Wall Street giant's share of the tickets issued in Florida would be $14.25. Although these contracts would need minor adjustment to meet the compensation provisions of the new law, the total amounts paid to private vendors is not likely to change. The amount of money going to the private companies irked Grady, who resigned from the Crist campaign last month but remains a friend of the governor.

"Every organization supporting this bill (local governments, the vendor of the equipment, etc.) has a stake in the revenue it will produce," Grady wrote. "Despite the admirable goals of this bill, a closer analysis shows it for what it is -- a money grab and monopolistic sop to a single vendor: American Traffic Solutions. I urge you to veto this bad bill, governor."

AAA normally has a financial stake in photo enforcement. As an insurance company, AAA profits directly from rate increases imposed on automated ticket recipients in Arizona, California and Illinois where certain types of camera tickets come with license points. Florida's AAA chapter blasted the bill as poorly drafted and raising a number of concerns specific to the state. It went further, however, with a general attack on the presumption of guilt and other issues that apply generally to any jurisdiction that employs automated enforcement.

"There is some debate whether or not red light cameras improve safety," Bakewell wrote. "A recent article in the St. Petersburg Times, April 24, 2010, referenced a University of South Florida study conducted by the School of Public Health that concluded cameras actually make intersections more dangerous. The article pointed out the great debate across the country on both sides of the argument. A 2007 Virginia DOT study shows accidents increased by nearly a third where red light cameras were used (view studies)."

The National Motorists Association, which strongly opposes all photo enforcement, has also weighed in against the bill. These pleas for a veto face an uphill battle. In an editorial board meeting with a strongly pro-camera newspaper after taking office, Crist suggested he would sign a red light camera authorization bill. Crist's spokesman has also recently told a number of media outlets that the governor is leaning toward supporting the legislation.

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