Ticket camera rule changes pursued in Missouri, Colorado, Alabama

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/28/2016

The use of automated cameras to ticket drivers is once again an issue at multiple statehouses around the country.

In Missouri, a bill nearing approval on the House floor would let voters decide the fate of red-light cameras used in the state.

Similar to a 2015 bill, this year’s version would put a question on the November statewide ballot allowing voters to decide whether to prohibit local governments or state agencies from setting up ticketing programs.

Communities with programs already in place would have one year to shut down the cameras.

The effort follows a Missouri Supreme Court decision last August to strike down the ticketing program in St. Louis. The court cited defects in the city’s ordinance that provided about $3.5 million annually in net revenue for the city.

Similar programs in St. Peter’s and Moline Acres were also affected by the decision.

The court action, however, does not ban outright the use of the cameras.

The bill from Rep. Bryan Spencer, R-Wentzville, would permit the public to have the final say on automated ticketing programs.

Critics say the bill, HB1945, is an overreach. Instead, they would prefer the issue be decided at the local level.

Colorado state lawmakers are nearing passage of a bill to ban the use of red-light cameras throughout the state.

A conference committee made up of select members of the House and Senate are negotiating the final version of a bill that previously permitted camera programs to continue to be used in work zones and school zones.

The revised effort, HB1231, is a blanket ban on all red-light camera programs. The use of speed cameras would not be affected.

State law now permits the use of red-light and speed cameras in all communities. To date, programs are in place in cities that include Denver, Boulder, Commerce City, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Aurora.

Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed two pieces of legislation one year ago to restrict the use of red-light and speed cameras. The Democratic governor did say, however, that he supports changes being made to photo enforcement procedures.

“While not always popular, when used correctly they make roads safer,” the governor wrote in his veto messages on the bills.

Instead, he told state lawmakers he would support efforts to limit the use of cameras to school zones, highway work zones, and areas with high accident rates. He also called for fine revenue to be earmarked solely for traffic safety improvements and enforcement.

Multiple efforts at the Alabama statehouse also address concerns about automated ticketing programs.

Eight communities that include Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Midfield and Selma use red-light cameras. The cities of Montgomery and Midfield also employ speed cameras.

One new law forbids police in the city of Montgomery to deploy traffic cameras in unmanned police cars.

City officials argued the program that doles out $60 citations reduces reckless driving and frees up police to serve the public elsewhere.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said law enforcement in the city should be able to continue to function without the five-year-old program.

Meanwhile, two bills halfway through the statehouse would expand the ticketing program into two Birmingham-area municipalities.

SB401 would authorize the city of Bessemer to post cameras to monitor drivers running red lights, stop signs and speeding.

Violators found running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs could receive citations up to $110. Speeding fines could reach $160.

HB550 would authorize the use of red-light cameras in the city of Fairfield. Fine amounts would be limited to $100.

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