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Red Light Camera Measure Moves Forward In The House

House plans for red light cameras would prohibit using them for right on red violations.
Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr
House plans for red light cameras would prohibit using them for right on red violations.
House plans for red light cameras would prohibit using them for right on red violations.
Credit Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr
House plans for red light cameras would prohibit using them for right on red violations.

A House measure placing greater restrictions on the use of red light cameras passed its first committee this week.  While it differs from a similar proposal in the Senate, the arguments against it sound about the same.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St.Petersburg) is shepherding a bill through the Senate that calls for new requirements on red light cameras.  Namely, jurisdictions that employ cameras would need to submit annual reports and show they’ve already tried alternative safety measures before setting up any new ones. 

Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) presented the House’s version Wednesday, and it’s a bit different.  There are some changes in administration—for instance, notices have to be sent certified rather than first class mail, but that’s not the portion that got critics going. 

“This bill provides that a notice of violation may not be issued for failure to stop at a red light when a driver is making a right hand turn,” Avila says.

The other bombshell has to do with how revenue is allocated.

“Local governments may only use the funds that are retained from the program for public safety purposes,” Avila continues, “which also include the costs related to the administration of the red light camera program.”

The right on red provision drew the most fire, but arguments leveled against it seemed dubious at best.

“I can’t really tell if it still allows police officers to write tickets,” Daytona Beach Shores Police Chief Stephan Dembinksy says.  “It’s going to create a problem because state law says we can, and now there’s going to be two state laws: one that says traffic tickets cannot be written by the traffic cameras and one that says the police officers can, and this is going to create a problem just in the interpretation of the law.”

Dembinsky spoke to lawmakers on behalf of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.  And Casey Cook, a lobbyist with the Florida League of Cities, echoes his point.

“So the ‘and a traffic citation’ I think is back to what you heard about from the Chief.  There’s some questions there—could that law enforcement officer write that ticket for a right on red?”

Their arguments left Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Palm Springs) in a state of disbelief.

“So, in what universe do you think that this prohibition on issuing right hand turn on red camera tickets would prohibit a law enforcement officer from issuing a red light camera—or a regular ticket, via UTC?” Kerner says.

On the topic of putting money toward public safety, Cook argued many local governments already are.  But when pressed for specific projects by Rep. Irv Slosberg (D-Del Ray Beach), all Cook could cite was the city of Apopka purchasing some new ambulances. 

State lawmakers regularly argue some cities are abusing red light cameras to generate revenue, but Cook turned the argument back on the state.

“Another point that we think is important to bring up is that the state is a partner in this,” Cook says.  “The state gets about half of a red light camera ticket, and that money should also potentially be dedicated for traffic safety.”

But among all the arguments, Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston) did find one sliver of common ground.

“Well you know, I know that whatever we do today, the issue about whether red light cameras are good or bad, that’s certainly not going to go away with this PCB, one way or another,” Stark says.

The measure passed its committee, right hand turn and all.  Because it started out as proposed committee bill, or PCB, it’s been refiled as an ordinary house bill.  It’s likely to have more committee stops before it hits the house floor, but officials haven’t decided which ones yet.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.