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Texas Senate Passes Bill Allowing School Bus Cameras
Texas state senator sells his colleagues on a red light camera ban, but passes a bill that allows school bus cameras.

Bob Hall
The Texas state Senate on Wednesday followed the lead of Ohio and used a bill promoted as "banning" red light cameras as a vehicle to authorize a new form of photo enforcement. Those watching Wednesday's session live could be forgiven for not noticing the lightning-quick shift in which the bill's sponsor, state Senator Bob Hall (R-Canton), spoke about camera enforcement as a hazard to both public safety and constitutional rights -- just before he quietly informed the Senate's presiding officer that he accepted an amendment allowing the installation of ticketing cameras on school buses.

"And so Mr. President, I will say that this [amendment] is acceptable to the author," Hall said.

With a bang of the gavel, the amendment was adopted without objection, just before final passage of the Hall's bill by a 25 to 6 vote.

Senate Bill 88 is styled as a ban on red light cameras, but the legislation is anything but straightforward. One section of the bill outlaws the devices, but another saves them with a grandfather clause.

"Notwithstanding the repeal by this act... if before June 1, 2017, a local authority had enacted an ordinance under those provisions to implement a photographic traffic signal enforcement system and entered into a contract for the administration and enforcement of the system, the local authority may continue to operate the system under that ordinance and under the terms of that contract until the expiration date," Section 7 of the bill states.

This allows any city with a red light camera program to use the devices for as long as the city wishes. Most programs are currently operating under twenty year contract extensions, and Hall has given cities that have not extended their contracts until June to lock the program in. The next section of the bill, however, excludes cities that have an "adverse state legislation" clause in their contract from taking advantage of the grandfather protection. Most cities do have an option to cancel their contract without penalty in the event the state outlaws automated ticketing machines.

Hall's original bill would also have authorized the use of "handheld" speed cameras, but the provision was changed to only allow such cameras if a police officer personally delivers the ticket at the time of the alleged offense.

The bill now heads to the state House which must pass the bill before it could be presented to Governor Greg Abbott (R) for his signature. A copy of the final bill, as passed by the state Senate, is available in a 60k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 88 (Texas Legislature, 3/29/2017)

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