Texas House panel advances ban on red-light cameras

| Friday, February 25, 2005

A bill blocking all city governments in Texas from using cameras to nab red-light runners has passed a House committee. The bill could create a barrier for several cities in the state hoping to cash in on lawbreakers.

The House Urban Affairs Committee voted 4-2 on Feb. 15 to send the red-light camera bill to the full House.

Under Texas law, running a red light is a Class C misdemeanor that can be regulated only by the state, even though local governments are in charge of enforcement. In 2003, the House voted 103-34 not to allow cities to use cameras to issue criminal citations to red-light violators.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, later inserted an amendment onto a massive omnibus bill giving cities authority to regulate transportation civilly or criminally. Shortly thereafter, it was signed into law.

Less than four months later, Garland, TX, set up its first cameras. The city has taken in $600,000 from about 4,200 civil violations since it began its “SafeLight” program, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Cities including Houston, Dallas, Plano, Frisco, Irving and Lubbock all are strongly considering the installation of their own red-light cameras.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, would eliminate the civil loophole.

HB259 now must clear the House Calendars Committee before moving on to the full House, where it is expected to pass.

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