Red-light camera repeal hits speed bump in House

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The effort to repeal Red-Light Camera laws statewide hit a speed bump when a key House supporter backed off on his proposal on Tuesday.

House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee approved an amended HB 7005 without opposition. The bill, filed by Rep. Frank Artiles, now requires municipalities to implement traffic-engineering studies to justify the cameras before installing expanding the program to other intersections.

But Senate Transportation Chair Jeff Brandes, after the House vote, said he was intent on keeping his bill “on the current path.”

“I think ultimately what is going to happen is that the House is going to do what they’re going to do, and the Senate is going to come up with its own plan,” Brandes told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida. “And I think we will then enter into negotiations about what the overall policy of the Legislature will be.”

Artiles’ amended bill also mandates that 70 percent of the local government revenue from cameras go into safety measures; if jurisdictions fail to provide annual enforcement reports to the state, they must shut off the cameras.

The initial proposal had a moratorium on new red-light cameras, as well as reducing fines from $158 to $83, effectively eliminating the revenues to local governments.

Artiles and Brandes held a joint press conference in February  to present a report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability finding fewer fatalities but more crashes at intersections with RLCs and that fines issued last year through the technology cost motorists nearly $119 million.

The OPPAGA study didn’t offer a clear picture of the influence of the cameras, Artiles said, because total numbers were not available from all areas using RLC technology.

Brandes’ bill (SB 144) will come before the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday. The St. Petersburg Republican contends the law has not improved safety and is only being used by local governments to pad budgets.

 Artiles told Turner that the response from local governments over the first draft of the bill eliminating the money is evidence the issue is about money.

“It’s about revenue, it’s not about safety,”  the Miami Republican added. “What good is it for cities and counties and the state to collect this revenue and not implement it for safety purposes?”

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.