Traffic camera bill 'trash-canned' in Alabama

| 3/18/2005

An effort in the Alabama House to allow police to install cameras at traffic lights to catch those running red lights may be dead.

The House Public Safety Committee delayed action on the bill March 9 and instead opted to ship the measure off to a subcommittee. Referral to a subcommittee usually means a bill is tabled for the session, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

“It just got trash-canned,” Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, said after his bill – HB428 – was rerouted.

The decision by panel chairman Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, followed a public hearing. During that hearing, it didn’t take long for members to express concerns about how the cameras might affect the privacy of innocent people in vehicles.

During the playing of a short video produced by the city of Tuscaloosa in support of the bill, a title flashed across the screen that read: “This is not a revenue source.” According to the Advertiser, that drew audible laughter.

Later, Rep. Albert Hall, D-Gurley, questioned supporters of the bill about why they wouldn’t allow revenue from the tickets to be turned over to the state General Fund budget instead of going for municipal use if cities were truly interested in photo enforcement of red lights only as a safety measure.

Grimes told the committee the maximum fine in the bill had been reduced from $250 to $100 to ease concern that the measure is a moneymaker for municipalities.

Other late amendments to the bill, distributed during the hearing, included exempting owners of stolen vehicles from paying fines if their vehicles were used to run a red light; using yellow light intervals that meet times outlined in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration handbook; and posting signs alerting drivers to the cameras use at affected intersections.

McClammy said later those last-minute add-ons were part of the reason a vote on the bill got delayed.

Hall said his subcommittee would consider the bill and return it to the full committee before the end of the session in May.

Grimes says he now plans to work to help pass a similar bill – SB200 – pending in the Senate.