12/10/2010Missouri Legislature to Tackle Photo Ticketing Issue
Missouri lawmaker seeks to encourage speed cameras, another hopes to ban them.
Opposing factions in the Missouri General Assembly have emerged ready either to authorize or prohibit the further use of automated ticketing machines in the state. One one side, state Representative Tim Meadows (D-Imperial) has been wined and dined by lobbyists for the photo ticketing industry and, in return, has filed legislation specially crafted to expand the use of speed cameras while appearing to be a "limitation" on their use.
Meadows represents Arnold, the city where American Traffic Solutions (ATS) first gained a foothold in the Show Me state by offering a high-powered lobbying team a cut of every citation issued. That powerful incentive drove an effort that convinced local leaders to install red light cameras without state authorization. Once Arnold's program was up and running, generating significant revenue, municipalities throughout the state rushed to install cameras of their own. To this day, the legal status of these programs is open to question. Former state Attorney General Jay Nixon warned that photo radar and red light camera tickets were unenforceable. In March, the state supreme court struck down Springfield's photo ticketing as illegal, while hinting in footnotes that the justices might look favorably on a broader legal challenge (view opinion).
Given the uncertainty, ATS retained the services of several lobbyists at the state capital, including William A. Gamble of the firm Gamble and Schlemeier. In 2010, Gamble bought meals for Meadows on January 13 and 19, February 23, March 15 and 16 and 17, April 1 and 20 and 27, June 29. The pair ate out together on a similar number of occasions last year -- at Gamble's expense. Meadows introduced legislation that specifically gives the green light to municipalities to install an unlimited number of speed cameras on any road so long as it has a sign designating it as a "work zone" or a "school zone."
"No county, city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision that is authorized to issue a notice of violation for a violation of a state or local traffic law or regulation shall employ the use of automated speed enforcement systems to enforce speeding violations, except such systems may be used in a school zone, construction zone, or work zone," House Bill 53 states.
The Meadows bill follows the model of other legislatures, such as Tennessee and Louisiana, where phrases like "limitation" or "prohibition" are used to allow lawmakers to play both sides of the issue. Lobbyists for camera firms and municipalities are happy while the legislator can sound like a camera opponent to a public skeptical of the value of camera enforcement.
On the opposite side of the legislative spectrum, state Senator Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis) has returned with a legitimate ban on the use of automated ticketing machines. The contrast with the Meadows bill is stark, as Senate Bill 16 offers no exceptions.
"No county, city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision of this state that is authorized to issue a notice of violation for a violation of a state or local traffic law or regulation, shall use or employ an automated photo red light enforcement system at any intersection within its jurisdiction," the Lembke bill states.
The red light camera ban has passed the senate in previous sessions but fallen short of enactment. A copy of the Meadows bill is available in a 15k PDF file at the source link below.