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Missouri Lawmakers Consider Legitimizing Traffic Cameras
Missouri House committee to decide whether to authorize and expand the use of red light cameras and speed cameras.

State Representative Dave HinsonRed light camera and speed camera companies in Missouri are very afraid. In 2006, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) deployed cameras in the city of Arnold in 2006 without waiting for legislative approval, against the advice of the firm's own legal counsel (view legal memo). Now the courts have caught up to the situation. In the past six weeks, the state Court of Appeals has issued four separate opinions finding photo enforcement programs in violation of state law, and local judges have issued injunctions. The state Supreme Court is unlikely to be sympathetic, as it struck down the photo ticketing program in Springfield in 2010 (view ruling). The state House Rules Committee will decide later today whether to let ATS off the hook.

In light of the situation, some Missouri state lawmakers are doing their best to rescue ATS. After taking a $800 in campaign donations from the company (most recently on December 11), state Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair) introduced a bill that would instantly clear the photo enforcement industry's legal troubles, if enacted. The measure cleared the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee last week and is scheduled for a Rules Committee hearing later today.

"Any conviction for an infraction based solely upon evidence obtained from an automated traffic enforcement system shall not have a point value... and no court having jurisdiction over such violations shall forward a record of any plea or finding of guilt of any person in the court for such infraction to the department of revenue," House Bill 1557 states.

The ban on the issuance of points overturns the Court of Appeals ruling that found, in the absence of action by the General Assembly, photo tickets were invalid because they do not issue license points. House Bill 1557 is couched in language that appears to limit the use of cameras, which was the technique that photo enforcement lobbyists used in Tennessee to sneak through legislative approval for red light cameras and speed cameras in 2008. Both the state attorney general (view opinion) and Tennessee Court of Appeals (view ruling) found that the "no points" language constituted a legislative blessing for the use of red light cameras and speed cameras that dismissed all legal action against the photo ticketing firms retroactively.

"Because Tennessee statutory law specifically authorizes owner liability for violations detected by traffic light monitoring systems, local ordinances so providing are not susceptible to challenge on the preemption grounds," Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr wrote.

Hinson's bill also includes a number of features designed to appear to limit the use of cameras but that actually codify existing practices. The bill requires adoption of an ordinance before using a red light camera, something cities already must do. The bill also states that yellow signal times must be "in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," which is already required under federal law. It requires a "public awareness campaign" for photo ticketing, something that is already part of every photo ticketing company's service offerings. Tickets would be set at $135.

A copy of House Bill 1557 is available in a 70k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: House Bill 1557 (Missouri General Assembly, 2/18/2014)

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