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Ohio Lawmakers Fight Back Against Activist Judges
Ohio state budget contains measure to defund cities that defy state restrictions on traffic camera use.

Ohio statehouseThe Ohio state Senate on Monday began consideration of budget legislation designed to overrule local judges who have been blocking minor restrictions on the use of photo enforcement in the state. Under a law that was supposed to take effect in March, a police officer must sit near a red light camera or speed camera for a photo ticket to be valid (view bill). This requirement makes it more expensive for the private companies that run camera programs, sparking lawsuits from upset city officials.

The most recent ruling came Monday from Lucas County, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Dean Mandros, who entered his final ruling exempting the city of Toledo from following the statutory requirement. The city argued the state law would deprive the city of revenue, and the judge agreed that this was an important concern.

"This court further finds that the public interest will be served by granting the requested injunction," Judge Mandros wrote on Monday. "Permitting the continued use of these traffic control devices allows the city of Toledo to dedicate and direct its limited manpower to other areas related to public safety concerns."

A handful of other local judges have similarly ruled that elected state lawmakers should have no say in whether or how a city uses automated ticketing machines because that would limit municipal home rule authority. Toledo had previously acted to ensure that residents had no say in the matter, either. In 2009, the city blocked an effort to put the use of cameras to a public vote.

Upset at being defied, House lawmakers passed the state budget with language that would bypass the efforts of local judges to protect localities and ensure compliance with state law. Under the measure, any city that operated a speed camera or red light camera after March 23 would have to file a report with the state auditor.

"If the local authority operated any traffic law photo-monitoring device without fully complying with sections 4511.092 to 4511.0914 of the Revised Code, the local authority shall file a report that includes a detailed statement of the civil fines the local authority has billed to drivers for any violation of any municipal ordinance that is based upon evidence recorded by a traffic law photo-monitoring device, including the gross amount of fines that have been billed," House Bill 64 states.

Cities that fail to comply would have their share of state funding reduced by the amount of money collected. The provision is attached to the 3215-page budget bill which must pass for the state government to function. If agreed to by the state Senate, the bill will become law with the signature of Governor John Kasich (R), who has already expressed his support for photo ticketing restrictions by signing the original limitations into law.

A copy of the funding limitation language is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: House Bill 64 excerpt (Ohio General Assembly, 4/22/2015)

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