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Conservative Groups Hit Texas Governor Over Cameras, Tolls
Political action groups ask Texas governor to uphold campaign promise to rein in toll roads and red light cameras.

Kelli Cook
Influential political groups are making their way to the Texas state capitol to urge Governor Greg Abbott (R) to take action against red light cameras and toll roads. The state legislature, which meets once every two years, adjourned on May 29 without taking decisive action on motorist issues that were part of Abbott's campaign platform. The groups are urging the governor to place pro-motorist bills on the agenda when he calls lawmakers back into special session.

Kelli Cook with the Montgomery County Campaign for Liberty on Thursday handed Abbott a thick stack of petitions from residents surprised by the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) last-minute decision to consider imposing tolls on State Highway 249 before new tolling restrictions take effect September 1. The petitions pointed out that the state Republican Party platform explicitly opposes the use of taxpayer funds to subsidize private toll roads.

"We, the undersigned, demand Governor Abbott keep his campaign promise of no new toll roads," the petition states. "Furthermore, we affirm the fact that TxDOT has the responsibility to fund, build, and maintain the 3.6 mile extension of state highway 249 located within Montgomery County without any tolls."

The theme was much the same with a broader coalition of statewide conservative and Tea Party groups who later today will deliver a letter calling on Abbott to formally add a red light camera ban to the special session agenda.

"Governor Abbott, those of us who have been in the fight against red light cameras will attest that these cameras are not about safety, but are yet another unconstitutional overreach by these municipalities," the letter stated. "Since the use of these cameras was first slipped into Texas statutes through unethical wheeling and dealing, Texas drivers have seen increasing accidents; a federal bribery scandal; a denial of the right to a trial by jury; denial of the right to confront one's accuser; interference with Texas elections when citizens petition for redress; and violations of the presumption of innocence."

As part of his gubernatorial campaign, Abbott explicitly called for changing state law to give voters a explicit say in whether red light cameras are used in their community through the referendum process.

"Governor Abbott, while citizens have the ability to gather petitions to try to force a referendum, municipalities find every reason to reject citizen petitions for voter referendums on traffic cameras," the letter stated. "We need your support to ban red light cameras, period."

Voters in Conroe, Dayton, Houston, Baytown, League City, Arlington and College Station have rejected red light cameras at the ballot box, but camera companies have been successful in blocking referendum votes in other cities, including Cleveland and Sugar Land. Last year, the camera industry's former top lawyer in Texas admitted there was an "imbalance" in the state's initiative law.

Representatives from national and state chapters of groups including Campaign for Liberty, Eagle Forum, Grassroots America signed the letter along with Republican precinct chairmen and Tea Party representatives.

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