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Virginia Considers Mix Of Pro, Anti-Motorist Bills
Virginia legislature takes up bills to expand and restrict motorist rights.

Virginia state capital
State lawmakers in Virginia are weighing whether to expand or limit the use of photo enforcement among a handful of bills of interest to the commonwealth's drivers. The first bill failed before the state Senate Privileges and Elections Committee last week on an 11 to 4 vote. State Senator Richard H. Black (R-Leesburg) had put forward a bill giving the public a say in whether red light cameras are used in their community.

"The referendum shall be held at the time of the November 2015 general election," Senate Bill No. 756 states. "The question to be placed on the ballot shall be as follows: 'Shall the city of [] use traffic light signal photo-monitoring systems? Yes or No?"

Though that bill failed, the House Courts of Justice Civil Law subcommittee voted 9 to 0 to approve a measure that would allow the recipient of a red light camera ticket to appeal to a circuit court, just like any other traffic infraction. Under existing law, it is essentially impossible for the state Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to hear a red light camera case because a district court's decision on a photo ticket cannot be appealed. Though the measure is likely to pass the General Assembly, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed an identical bill last year.

Like the governor, state Senator Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) is a booster of automated ticketing machines. Her legislation would eliminate the protections in existing law that require personal service of a citation before any penalty can be imposed. Senate Bill 797 allows the private, for-profit camera operators to send tickets via regular mail and collect late fees within 45 days, whether the notice was received or not.

Such a bill would make it easier to collect the $50 speed camera tickets that state Senator John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke) hopes to authorize. His proposal, Senate Bill 925, would allow private companies to set up photo radar units in school zones and issue tickets without the need for a police officer or city employee to "approve" the violation notice. Under the proposal, ticket recipients would mail cash directly to the private company.

Delegate Bill R. DeSteph Jr (R-Virginia Beach) would cut a break to owners of automobiles not designed to have a front license plate by modifying the state's existing two-plate requirement. House Bill 1832 recognizes that many low-volume European vehicles cannot accommodate the larger US plate design without, in many cases, drilling the bumper or making a similar permanent modification. Owners of such vehicle would be not be ticketed for running only a rear license plate.

Currently, Virginia is the only state in the nation that bans radar detectors. Delegate Dave A. LaRock (R-Hamilton) introduced House Bill 2079 to bring the commonwealth back into line with the rest of the nation by allowing use of the devices.

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