6/27/2013Ohio House Votes Overwhelmingly To Ban Traffic Cameras
Red light cameras and speed cameras would be banned under bill passed by 2-1 margin in Ohio House.
All red light cameras and nearly all speed cameras would be banished from Ohio under a bill that cleared the state House of Representatives Wednesday by a 61-32 vote. State Representatives Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) and Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) introduced the measure that would pull the plug on sixteen municipal automated ticketing programs currently in operation.
"Let's be candid about these cameras," Maag said on Wednesday. "Their main goal is to generate revenue and this is obvious for several reasons. One, cameras do not improve safety... Two, the punishment is civil and not criminal... if these cameras were really about promoting public safety, why don't the citations carry the same weight as those issued by an officer for the same crime? They've taken law enforcement and rigged it for profit."
Should the bill pass the state Senate and gain the signature of Governor John Kasich (R), cities such as Cleveland and Columbus stand to lose $5.1 million a year. Toledo will lose $3 million, Dayton $2.4 million, Elmwood Place $1 million and Akron and Parma will each lose about half-a-million. Northwood stands to lose just $36,500. The state's Legislative Service Commission explained those jurisdictions will have to reduce expenditures to compensate for the loss. The camera ban's sponsors argued their measure restores local control.
"This bill's not aimed at local control or budgets," Mallory said Wednesday. "House Bill 69 is designed to address the countless citizen complaints about fairness, uniformity in the law and due process... If the supporters of the programs had presented them to their citizens for approval, we would not be discussing this growing problem at all."
Automated enforcement has, for the most part, been extremely unpopular in the state. So far, residents in seven cities have circulated petitions and succeeded in overturning the decision of their city council to install red light cameras and speed cameras. The votes in Ashtabula, Cincinnati, Chillichothe, Heath, Garfield Heights, South Euclid, Steubenville have shown as 76 percent of residents opposed to the cameras.
Opponents of the camera ban conceded certain cities have abused the devices but insisted, on balance, that photo enforcement has been proven effective.
"They came to us, the Traffic Safety Coalition -- the Traffic Safety Coalition!" state Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) said. "What does that mean? It means they know more than we do. That's what it means. We need to listen to the information these learned people have given."
As reported by TheNewspaper, the Traffic Safety Coalition is not an independent, grassroots safety organization, it is a front group created on behalf of Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian firm that runs several of Ohio's most lucrative camera programs. Redflex hired the Chicago, Illinois based public relations firm Resolute Consulting to create the "coalition" to create the appearance of widespread support for the cameras.
While the Ohio bill outlaws red light cameras completely, an amendment in committee added an exception to save the camera program in Parma. It allows a speed camera to be used in school zones, but only when a 20 MPH speed limit is in effect (that is, while children are going to or leaving school, or during recess) and when an police officer is present at the scene. Unlike the state of Maryland where jurisdictions were allowed to create "school zones" within half a mile of adult learning centers, essentially blanketing the entire state, Ohio law limits the designation to an area directly adjacent to a high school or elementary school, extending no more than 300 feet from the school property.
The text of House Bill 69 is available in a 10k PDF file at the source link below.