A handful of bills in the Texas Legislature would either
rein in or eliminate cities' use of automated cameras.
The cameras, which snap pictures of red-light runners or
speeders' vehicle tags, have been authorized in various cities throughout the
state since 2003. Tickets are mailed to vehicle owners, regardless who was driving
at the time.
A bill offered by Senate Transportation and Homeland
Security Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, is intended to make the use of
red-light cameras less lucrative for local coffers. The bill - SB125 - would
cap fines for running red lights and require cities to share fines generated by
the cameras with the state.
Carona's committee approved the bill after adding a
provision that would cap the statewide maximum fine at $75 for first offenders.
Revenue from the fines would first pay for the costs associated with the
cameras - about 40 percent of the money. The remaining funds would be split
between the state and cities, The Dallas
Morning News reported.
Cities would be required to use their share of the profits
for public safety and traffic needs. The state would route its proceeds to the
state fund to support trauma care and emergency medical services. The bill's
next stop is the Senate floor.
Carona said the change to state law is needed because some
cities are levying fines of $150 or more for motorists caught running red
"What we've tried to do through this legislation is curb the
use of these cameras for financial reasons," Carona told lawmakers. "They need
to be centered around public safety."
Another bill offered by Carona would establish criteria for
where red-light cameras can be posted. Cities would be required to do traffic
studies at intersections they want to use cameras.
The bill - SB1119 - is awaiting assignment to committee.
A separate bill would essentially negate cities' authority
to use cameras at intersections. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte,
the bill would block all city governments in the state from using cameras to
nab red-light runners. Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, has introduced a similar
bill in the House.
Jackson's bill - SB195 - is in the Senate Transportation and
Homeland Security Committee.