Florida will not repeal red-light cameras this year

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Florida will not repeal red-light cameras this year after all.

Senate Transportation Chair Jeff Brandes pulled the proposal (SB 144) Wednesday after failing to line up enough votes for passage. Instead, he said he would amend the bill to increase regulations on the programs statewide.

Nevertheless, the committee refused to act on the changes and postponed a vote on the amended measure.

“That shows you the power of this (red light camera) industry,” Brandes told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida after the postponement, and restated opposition to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act of 2010, the law permitting red-light cameras.

“What you’re seeing is municipalities that have become addicted to the funds, and in many of these cities it’s not about safety,” Brandes continued. “It’s become a backdoor tax increase.”

The changes proposed by Brandes required jurisdictions to conduct traffic engineering studies prior to any additional installation of cameras, the same requirement that is in the House companion bill.

Democrat Sen. Jeff Clemens made the motion to postpone, saying the delay will give the committee “time to step back and take a better look at” the changes.

Brandes continues to maintain that communities use the cameras only as revenue generators, but admitted there wasn’t the support in the Senate for repeal. Brandes reached that conclusion after he couldn’t muster enough votes in the committee he chairs to pass three amendments of the redrafted proposal.

“Clearly if I don’t have the votes to adopt simple amendments that are common sense,” Brandes told Turner, “such as standardizing turns throughout the state of Florida, clearly you would see that the broader issue was not long for this world.”

Two of the failed amendments received a 4-4 vote, largely along party lines, with Republican Sens. Greg Evers and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla absent.

Turner writes that both the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association opposed the amendment allowing motorists a “rolling stop” of up to 15 mph before taking a right-on-red turn, if there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Also rejected in a 5-3 vote was an amendment requiring only warnings to be issued to owners of vehicles captured on red light cameras going through a traffic signal 0.5 seconds after the light changed from yellow to red.

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.