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California Governor Signs, Vetoes Red Light Camera Bills
California governor signs bill guaranteeing state revenue from red light cameras, vetoes bill reducing right turn camera fine.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week approved one bill and vetoed another, ensuring that the state government would maximize its share of red light camera revenue. On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger blocked legislation that would have slashed the fine for rolling right turn on red from $500 to $250 (view bill). The potential loss of income from the change raised opposition outside the legislature.

The California League of Cities referred to the bill as a "de facto prohibition" on red light cameras because turning tickets account for up to 90 percent of the tickets issued in many jurisdictions. The state collects about $175 from each turning ticket, an amount that would have been cut in half had the bill been signed. The resulting reduction would cost the cash-strapped state government millions every year.

"I am returning Assembly Bill 909 without my signature," Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message. "A driver running a red-light, whether they are traveling straight, or turning right, makes a very dangerous traffic movement that endangers the nearby motoring public, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Modifying existing law to make red-light violations from a right turn less egregious sends the wrong message to the public that California is tolerant of these types of offenses. It is our responsibility to protect the motoring public and not increase the risk of traffic collisions. Therefore, I am unable to sign this bill."

Because of the slow speeds involved, right-turn on red collisions are extremely rare. According to US Department of Transportation statistics, one could drive over a billion miles before being involved in such a crash. On Thursday, Schwarzenegger signed a separate bill into law whose primary purpose was to ensure the state would keep its $175 share of all photo enforcement fines -- including those from right turns.

A number of jurisdictions had turned to creating "administrative tickets" for red light camera fines and regular speeding tickets as a means of cutting the state and county out of the process. By citing motorists under municipal ordinances instead of under the state vehicle code, cities reduced the cost of a ticket from $500 each to $150 for the first offense, $300 for a second and $500 for a third. Instead of splitting the revenue with the state and county, however, the city kept all of it. Senate Bill 949 cancels this practice by explicitly denying localities authority to issue such tickets for offenses covered by the state vehicle code.

"This section does not authorize a local authority to enact or enforce an ordinance or resolution that establishes a violation if a violation for the same or similar conduct is provided in this code, nor does it authorize a local authority to enact or enforce an ordinance or resolution that assesses a fine, penalty, assessment, or fee for a violation if a fine, penalty, assessment, or fee for a violation involving the same or similar conduct is provided in this code," the new law states.

The law takes effect on July 1, 2011. Because the administrative tickets did not report citations to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the citations did not carry license points. This irked companies like AAA, which makes money from raising insurance rates on recipients of license points, and companies that sponsor traffic schools, because motorists only take the school to keep points from going on their driving record.

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