Missouri lawmakers advance efforts to combat ticket cams

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/6/2015

The use of automated cameras to ticket drivers continues to draw attention in the Missouri General Assembly. One bill halfway through the statehouse would let voters decide the fate of the technology.

Missouri law requires points to be added for moving violations. However, camera-generated tickets in the state don’t assign points. As a result, courts question whether automated ticketing violates state law. The Missouri Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue in the coming months.

The House voted 140-9 to advance a bill that could outright ban the use of ticket cameras throughout the state. Specifically, HB207 would put a question to on the statewide ballot allowing voters to decide whether red-light and speed cameras should be against the law.

Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, describes the automated ticketing practice as “absurd” and he says the process “serves as a perfect illustration of why people distrust their government.”

“This type of law-smithing leads to abuse and waste to the point that we have to spend valuable taxpayer dollars to get the Missouri courts to decide if moving through a red light constitutes a ‘moving violation,’” Curtman said in recent remarks.

Curtman said the November 2014 election results in St. Charles County, Mo., spurred him to take action. County voters agreed to prohibit law enforcement throughout the county, including police departments, from using photo enforcement to issue citations.

Critics say the bill is an overreach.

“What we are doing here is micromanaging for our communities,” Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant, said during House floor discussion on the bill. “This is an issue that should be decided by the local community.”

The bill is scheduled to get a public hearing Wednesday, May 6, in the Senate Judicial, Economic Development and Local Government Committee.

The House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee has approved multiple bills that also address the issue.

HB234 also calls for getting rid of ticket cameras. Instead of relying on a public vote, local governments or state agencies would simply be prohibited from setting up ticket programs starting Aug. 28. Communities with programs already in place would have until Sept. 1, 2016, to shut down the cameras.

HB421 is intended to make sure residents are not bothered with electronic ticketing while driving outside of the state. The state Department of Revenue would be forbidden to work with other states that try to impose or collect fines resulting from red-light or speed cameras.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, has said HB421 addresses a practice that is “nothing more than an unscrupulous revenue grab.”

“This is a growing problem across the country as more municipalities concoct these predatory schemes to extort money from innocent travelers.”

HB452 and HB453 also address concerns about the ticketing method. The two bills require signage to be posted at intersections posted with photo enforcement cameras and a requirement that photos snapped of drivers must be from the front.

The bills await further consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

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