2/4/2016Arizona Senate Committee Hints At Photo Radar Rescue Plan
Lobbyists and other camera supporters begin the push to water down a proposed statewide photo enforcement referendum.
Stan Barnes, the lobbyist for American Traffic Solutions (ATS), is desperately trying to stop the Arizona legislature from revoking the statewide permission to use red light cameras and speed cameras. In a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Public Safety Committee, Barnes marshaled an impressive array of uniformed police chiefs to oppose a resolution that would let Arizona voters pass, or reject, a photo enforcement ban.
The chiefs' testimony reflected the industry has a strategy of divide and conquer to defeat the possibility of a statewide ballot vote on cameras. Each pro-camera speaker and lawmaker urged the committee chairman, state Senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa), to amend the measure in the hopes that some communities would keep the cameras, or at least certain types of cameras, alive. Smith explained that this is an issue that demands public involvement.
"I think the overarching idea is that the people should decide on some level, especially for a piece of legislation that so directly touches them every day," Smith said. "Maybe the people don't know about the Redflex CEO being indicted and charged with federal perjury for a slush fund they're bribing officials with to keep their cameras in their city... Let them decide."
The ATS lobbyist, who also happens to be the lobbyist for the Proposition 123 education funding measure, claimed that in this instance it would be a mistake to give the public any say at all.
"It is a blunt object to go to the ballot and let the chaos ensue," Barnes said. "I am dismayed as you are at the corruption that we read about with Redflex. It's a black mark on the industry. It makes it harder for my company to operate."
Smith explained that he already intends to scale back his measure in light of the industry push-back.
"Members, I am going to, in all likelihood, amend this to the first iteration of the bill to allow a local community -- especially in light of testimony from Paradise Valley, Star Valley and others saying their community would support this," Smith said. "I am looking at an amendment to say that if the community wants it, then they can vote for it."
A community-by-community vote would not necessarily produce a different result. In 1991, Peoria became the first city to ban speed cameras in a referendum that carried 70 percent of the vote. In 2014, 72 percent of Sierra Vista residents opted to oust automated ticketing machines. Last year, two out of three Tucson voters sent ATS packing. Nationwide, in communities large and small, photo ticketing has lost at the ballot box nine out of ten times (view list of votes).
State Senator John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills) proposed the next move, which is to begin carving out exemptions so that speed cameras in school zones and red light cameras would survive, regardless of any public vote.
"I think that red light cameras are extremely popular with people, and that moving photo radar is extremely unpopular with people," Kavanaugh said. "I think that if this went forward as a ban statewide on moving photo radar [alone], then it would pass... I urge the sponsor to amend out red light cameras, and put in perhaps for moving violations in school zones."
Smith did not indicate his view on exempting certain forms of photo ticketing. The underlying bill passed the committee on a 3 to 2 vote. A copy of the measure is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.