2/3/2016State Lawmakers Take Up Traffic Camera Bans
State legislatures in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Maryland take up measures to outlaw automated enforcement in the wake of scandal.
State lawmakers throughout the country are having second thoughts about the use of controversial red light cameras and speed cameras. Last week, a federal jury handed down a guilty verdict in the Chicago, Illinois red light camera corruption scandal, and Redflex Traffic Systems announced on Monday that the Australian Federal Police had opened a corruption investigation into the Melbourne-based firm. Thanks to the industry's troubles, critics of automated enforcement have never been more emboldened.
The momentum is strongest in Arizona, where Republican state representatives found themselves barraged by phone calls after introducing a measure that would massively expand the use of cameras (view bill). Within days, the lawmakers retreated, pulling the bill and replacing it with anti-camera measures. Senate Bill 1241 bans cameras on state highways. It cleared the Senate Transportation Committee last week.
Critics suggest this particular bill is meant as "pressure relief" because it gives state senators an opportunity to claim they voted to "ban" cameras, even though the measure would only affect two communities that use photo radar on state roads. The state Senate Public Safety, Military and Technology Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Concurrent Resolution 1010 later today, which would further relieve the pressure by calling for a statewide election to let voters decide on banning cameras. Finally, House Bill 2540 outright repeals the legislature's previous authorization for the use of automated ticketing machines.
"It's time for Arizona politicians to man up and undo the damage they did when they let these corrupt companies loose on our streets in the first place," Camerafraud's Shawn Dow told TheNewspaper. "They need to pass a straight-up ban."
A bill to repeal Florida's red light camera authorization, Senate Bill 168, is set for hearing on Thursday. In support of the measure, the Liberty First Network sent out an email decrying the use of short yellow timing at red light camera intersections as a reason to cancel the program.
"This substantially increased revenue from violations while increasing the risk to public safety," the email stated. "To make matters worse, Redflex Traffic Solutions corporate officers have even been arrested and convicted for bribing local government officials to support installation of red light cameras. You can help put an end to the corruption, pay-offs and extortion surrounding the use of red light cameras."
On Sunday, activists in Chicago, Illinois gathered at a photo enforced intersection to demonstrate their support for House Bill 141, which would ban automated ticketing statewide.
"In the wake of former Chicago Department of Transportation official John Bills' guilty verdict, the Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras are calling on House Speaker Mike Madigan to immediately bring House Bill 141 up for a vote in the General Assembly," group director Mark Wallace said. "It is time for Speaker Madigan to take responsibility for a corrupt and unfair system that he and his cronies helped bring to Chicago."
In Maryland, thirty-four state delegates lined up to support House Bill 436, which would ban the cameras. The effort faces an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
"Any unfavorable changes to speed and red light camera can expect to face stiff resistance from the photo enforcement industry, which has significantly increased their spending on lobbying in the past year," the Maryland Drivers Alliance explained. "Local governments which profit from speed cameras, and their puppet organizations Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League, are expected to oppose any changes to photo enforcement laws which might better protect the legal rights of motorists. Some local governments, particularly Montgomery County, regularly expend taxpayer resources and public employee time influencing state lawmakers."
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Environment and Transportation Committee on February 18. To date, sixteen states have outlawed the use of traffic cameras (view list), and voters in Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Washington have taken matters into their own hands to ban cameras through three dozen referendums at the city level (view list).