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Legislative Update: Four States Advance Traffic Camera Modification Bills
Florida and South Carolina traffic camera bans advance, Tennessee and Iowa consider tinkering with law.

Florida Senate
Lawmakers in four states this week advanced legislation that would, if passed, either place mild restrictions on or outright ban the use of automated ticketing machines by municipalities. The Florida state Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted 4 to 2 to approve an outright prohibition on the use of red light cameras -- just one year after the legislature had given in to the lobbying effort of localities in authorizing their use. Senate Bill 672 must now clear the Senate Community Affairs Committee before being considered by the full Senate.

The Tennessee Senate Transportation Committee voted 8 to 0 Wednesday to move a far less impressive measure. Senate Bill 1684 has almost a dozen provisions, none of which will have much effect on the cities currently operating red light camera and speed camera programs. The official legislative analysis of the measure estimates that local governments would lose $689,700 if the bill becomes law and the state $30,800. The analysis notes that most of the "restrictions" simply reflect what cities are currently doing.

"According to the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, it is current practice to reject citations for right turn violations when there is no evidence indicating a vehicle has crossed a stop line after a traffic light has signaled red," the legislative analysis noted. "Multiple citations are not issued for each distinct and separate offense. Citations are currently rejected when registration information captured by surveillance cameras does not match that of the cited vehicle."

Of the substantial changes in the measure, only four local governments would feel the legislation's ban on the use of a "litigation tax" and $75 fees imposed on red light camera ticket recipients. Another provision banning the use of a speed camera within one mile of a significant speed limit change would affect ten cameras and cost municipalities that depend on this type of trap a total of $404,585. The bill must now be clear the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before moving on to a floor vote.

In Iowa the state House voted 90 to 8 Wednesday to adopt HF 549, which would have legitimized the use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the state for the first time. Under the legislature's rules, however, the deadline for passage through a Senate committee has expired, effectively ending the bill's chance of final passage. Cities in Iowa have increasingly turned to cameras after the state supreme court ruled that localities did not require the legislature's permission to install them (view ruling). Most of these jurisdictions were upset that the bill would have reduced the amount of a red light camera fine to $50 -- the only substantive provision in the measure.

South Carolina's Senate on Wednesday delivered a unanimous rebuke to Ridgeland Mayor Gary W. Hodges. A state law passed last year, backed by a a pair of attorney general opinions, declared the Ridgeland speed cameras on Interstate 95 illegal. Hodges ignored the opinions and claimed he had the legal right to use the cameras that have since generated about $1.3 million worth of citations. The Senate had previously given preliminary approval to Senate Bill 336 on March 3, but today's vote sent the measure to the House for its approval. If signed into law, the bill would force Ridgeland's cameras to come down. A class action lawsuit is pending to force Hodges to issue refunds to the vehicle owners ticketed by the unsanctioned program.

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