Florida lawmakers address red-light cameras

| 4/7/2010

An issue that is drawing attention this year at the Florida statehouse is what to do about cameras posted throughout the state to ticket vehicles caught running red lights. Some Florida lawmakers are seeing red over the use of automated cameras to nab red-light runners because others appear to have their sights on the green.

One bill would ban the use of red-light cameras while another would allow them everywhere.

Advocates say red-light cameras promote safety and use technology in a helpful way. Others point out some communities in the state already have cameras installed, but many other communities want the state to set standards before they post their own cameras.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time. Florida law neither permits nor forbids the use of red-light cameras to fine violators, but governments have been slow to post them because of privacy and other concerns.

Despite the concerns, more than 50 cities and counties around the state use the cameras.

The House Health Care Regulation Policy Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow cities and counties to set up cameras at intersections and set statewide standards for the program. Tickets would be $155.

Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, would divvy up ticket revenues between the state and the cities and counties where the roads are located. Whatever local jurisdictions pay to companies to supply, maintain and operate the equipment would come out of their $75 cut.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They also say the process denies alleged violators the opportunity to confront their accusers.

Those concerns spurred Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, to pursue legislation that would rid the state of traffic cameras. Schenck describes the cameras as “cash cows” masked as a benefit to public safety.

In the legislative analysis of Schenck’s bill, it is written that the coffers of local governments using such cameras to generate revenue are likely to experience a hit.

His bill – HB1235 – received narrow margins of support, allowing it to advance through two House committees. It now awaits consideration in the House Economic Development and Community Affairs Policy Council.

Reagan’s bill – HB325 – has been sent to the House Finance and Tax Council.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.