Sen. Brandes aims to abolish red light cameras, calling them ‘backdoor tax increases’

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During the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Jeff Brandes successfully forwarded an amendment to remedy various problems with red-light camera ticketing. The Brandes amendment provided greater time for drivers to appeal such tickets at lower rates, provided caps on associated administrative costs, and limited the ability of red light cameras to issue “right-turn on red” citations.

But to Brandes, these fixes are just not enough. On Wednesday he filed SB 144 to repeal Florida’s red light traffic laws. Red light cameras — known as “traffic infraction detection devices” — were authorized by the Legislature in 2010.

“We have had red light cameras in Florida for over three years. They were initially sold as safety

devices, but I have come to firmly believe that they are now being used as backdoor tax increases,” stated Brandes. “We have seen municipalities that have installed these devices shorten yellow light times and set arbitrary standards on right turn on red violations. I believe cities will continue to install these devices if left unchecked.”

Earlier this year, WTSP Channel 10 reporter Noah Pransky reported that the state had quietly reduced the minimum number of seconds for yellow light intervals — specifically for those that were equipped with red light cameras. The result? Citation rates spiked by almost 40 percent in municipalities that have the cameras.

Rep. Frank Artiles, who will file a companion measure in the House, sees red light cameras as benefiting city revenue, not public safety.

“I have fought for several years to modify and bring uniformity to the red light camera laws in Florida. While we made some progress last year, I believe that this year we need to look at abolishing these intrusive programs,” Artiles said.

Abolishing will not be easy.  American Traffic Solutions, Inc., the Tempe, Arizona-based red light camera company that operates devices throughout Florida, has already spent $289,000 in Florida lobbying fees in the first half of 2013 and is 23 strong in their legislative lobbying squadron. Their roster includes Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Corcoran & Johnson, and Southern Strategy Group, to name a few.

Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy researcher, political consultant, and mother to three daughters. She can be reached at karen@cyphersgroup.com.