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Ohio Senator Moves To Rescue Speed Cameras
Bill imposing mild restrictions on speed cameras would save Ohio ticketing program from serious legal threats.

State Senator Bill Seitz
Fearing the popularity of House-passed legislation and a pending state Supreme Court ruling that could curtail the use of speed cameras, Ohio state Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) introduced legislation that would rescue the photo ticketing industry from its troubles. The state Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee began consideration of his bill on Wednesday.

Last June, the state House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 69, banning the use of automated ticketing machines with the limited exception of use in a school zone by a police officer when children are actually present (view bill). To head off this effort, the Seitz bill mimics the police officer requirement of the House proposal but allows speed camera tickets to be issued anywhere in the state as long as the ticket is for an alleged speed of 6 MPH over the limit in a school zone and 10 MPH elsewhere.

On Tuesday the Traffic Safety Coalition, a front group for Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian camera vendor, appeared at the Ohio Statehouse with the Ohio Municipal League to oppose the Seitz bill as a "virtual ban" on the use of speed cameras. Representatives of cities with camera programs insist mandating that police officers be present where photo radar is used would make the camera programs lose too much money.

In Washington, DC, the speed camera vendor pays off-duty police officers to sit in mobile speed camera cars in a program that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for city coffers. Rank-and-file officers are more likely to back photo enforcement duty which comes with a time-and-a-half payment bonus and no responsibilities. A Redflex lobbyist admitted in 2008 that having "operators" in mobile speed camera vans was just for show because the systems are fully automated. This week, however, Redflex insists any interference in municipal affairs is unwelcome.

"Leaders in more than a dozen Ohio communities have used their right to local control by voting to keep their roads safe by installing safety cameras and they are having great results," Ohio's Redflex lobbyists said in a letter to state senators.

Residents in a half-dozen Ohio communities took to the ballot box to reject the decision of their leaders to install red light cameras and speed cameras. Camera bans were enacted in Steubenville, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Heath, Garfield Heights, Ashtabula, and East Cleveland.

If the state House and Senate cannot agree on a solution, no changes will be made to existing photo enforcement practices unless the state Supreme Court weighs in on the matter. A copy of the Seitz bill is available in a 130K PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 342 (Ohio General Assembly, 5/20/2014)

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