Texas House puts brakes on red-light cameras

| Tuesday, March 01, 2005

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

House lawmakers voted 113-23 on Feb. 28 to approve the ban on red-light cameras. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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 overwhelmingly voted 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 into a massive omnibus bill giving cities authority to regulate transportation civilly or criminally. Shortly thereafter, it was signed into law.

A few 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.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said he expects that chamber to “look favorably” on the bill – HB259.

Gov. Rick Perry, who would have final say, isn’t taking a position on the issue.

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