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California Legislature Takes Aim At Red Light Camera Profit
Four proposals affecting red light cameras advance at the California state legislature.

State Senator Jenny Oropeza
A handful of bills advanced in the California legislature last week that, if enacted, would restrict the ability of local jurisdictions to use red light cameras to generate revenue. Some proposals make minor tweaks, while others, like Senate Bill 949, strike down ordinances specifically designed to boost municipal profit margins. The state Senate approved this bill 28 to 0 last Friday sending a warning to jurisdictions like Alameda County, Long Beach, Oakland, Riverbank and Roseville which have set up their own traffic ticketing and red light camera ordinances that bypass the requirements of state law.

The resulting "administrative" tickets issued under the legally questionable procedures are cheaper -- a $150 speeding or red light camera ticket instead of $450 -- but because the municipality does not share the fine revenue with the county and state, it ends up collecting more revenue. State Senator Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) introduced Senate Bill 949 which clarifies that no local jurisdiction has any authority to create its own ordinance for a traffic violation already covered by the state traffic code (PDF File view bill, 150k PDF).

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended Assembly Bill 909 so that it included language banning the issuance of photo tickets for vehicles making right-hand turns on red. These citations have become the primary source of income for most California red light camera programs, even though accident data show that the famous "California roll" is not dangerous. The measure, introduced by Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) would only allow for ticketing if a driver fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or an approaching vehicle. (PDF File view bill, 150k PDF).

Last Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended a minor proposal by state Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) that would require that cities come up with a "safety" justification, posted on the Internet, for any red light camera installed after January 1, 2011. The measure also includes a number of provisions that mirror existing practice. View bill.

On Friday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17 to 0 to approve Assembly Bill 2097 which closes a loophole allowing government workers to escape red light camera and toll skipping tickets. Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona) preserves the confidentiality of special license plate holders but requires that they submit an up-to-date employment address to which the private companies could mail red light camera, parking and toll road tickets. View bill.

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