5/21/2019Texas Passes Partial Red Light Camera Ban
Partial ban on red light cameras takes effect with the signature of the Texas governor.
The majority of red light camera programs in the Lone Star State will be shut down under legislation that cleared the Texas legislature on Friday. By a vote of 23 to 8, the state Senate approved the partial ban on automated ticketing that had sailed through the House with a vote of 109 to 34. Because it passed with supermajority support, the bill becomes law upon being signed by Governor Greg Abbott (R), who made getting rid of cameras part of his campaign platform.
Most, but not all, of 37 cities running red light cameras would lose the ability to approve $75 photo citations issued by private, for-profit companies. Cities that have clauses that allow for early termination of their photo ticketing contract in the event of adverse state legislation must pull the plug immediately. Cities that struck the escape clause in anticipation of the legislature's move can continue using the cameras until the contract expires -- many of the deals have been extended for twenty years or more.
"Some entities leave the clause out," Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), the upper chamber's bill sponsor, explained. "Unfortunately, the [state] constitution protects them. It's kinda like we're rewarding bad behavior."
House lawmakers sympathetic to the complaints of local mayors inserted the controversial grandfather clause into the bill with a 88-53 vote. Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), the House sponsor of the ban, objected strongly to the idea that such a clause was needed. He succeeded in blocking cities from rushing to extend their contracts with an amendment only accepting the terms of contracts in force on May 7.
While automated ticketing companies have had a great deal of success in legal fights against private citizens, this measure presents a new obstacle. Jurisdictions that attempt to defy the legislature will have to take on state attorney general Ken Paxton, who is tasked by the bill with enforcing the shutdown. Byron Schirmbeck, state coordinator for Texas Campaign for Liberty, says his group will also hold cities to account.
"Fortunately the remaining camera sanctuary cities will no longer be able to block registrations for unpaid tickets making them completely optional," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "The cities that do have to shut down their programs are also not allowed to pursue outstanding tickets and all existing registration holds will be removed. We will consider petition efforts and an increased trash your ticket campaign to go after those that choose to operate camera programs after the ban."
Schirmbeck led the successful petition effort that banned cameras in Baytown. Voters also used the initiative process to eliminate programs in Conroe, Dayton, Houston, League City, Arlington and College Station. Redflex Traffic Systems, which is already struggling financially, warned Australian investors on Monday that the company could lose up to $12 million per year as a result of the ban.
"The company expects the enactment of Bill 1631 will have a material impact on the company's financial performance but is unable to assess the quantum at this time given Bill 1631 has various provisions that the company is still evaluating," the Redflex notice explained. "Our Texas contracts represented approximately 13 percent of Redflex Group revenues derived in the six-month period ended 31 December 2018."
Even if Redflex and its competitor Verra Mobility (formerly American Traffic Solutions) can convince cities to challenge the new law in court, cities will have no way to require payment of automated citations. The new measure prohibits the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and county assessors from blocking vehicle registrations for non-payment of photo tickets. Already, credit reporting agencies it may not lower a motorist's credit rating for unpaid tickets of any kind. Including Texas, a total of eighteen states have banned the use of red light and speed cameras (view list).
A copy of the final text of the legislation as enacted is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.