Red light camera bill dies in the FL Senate

red light cameras
Posted at 10:31 PM, Mar 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-10 10:39:53-04

Tallahassee, Fla. (WTXL) - On Wednesday, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes pulled back SB 144 a measure that would have focused on repealing the red-light camera law. Instead, he proposed changes to increase how the cameras were regulated. 

During meetings, the committee decided to postpone a vote on his rewritten bill.

"That shows you the power of this (red light camera) industry," said Brandes who maintained his opposition to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act of 2010, the state's red-light camera law, after the postponement.

"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 added. "It's become a backdoor tax increase."

The changes that Brandes proposed would allow new cameras at intersections but only if their use is justified through traffic engineering studies --- a requirement that is included in a House bill. Also, money generated from red-light camera tickets would have to be used for traffic safety improvements. Cities wouldn't be able to use the cameras if they fail to provide annual camera-enforcement reports to the state.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who made a motion Wednesday for postponement, said the delay will give committee members "time to step back and take a better look at" the changes.

"I'm not sure they were listening to me," Clemens said of the support he got for the delay. "I think we're just doing what was best at this point."

Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, views the cameras as simply a revenue generator for local communities. But he acknowledged that there isn't an enough support in the Senate to repeal the cameras. That was evident Wednesday when he couldn't get his own committee to approve three amendments to his rewritten bill.

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

Two of the amendments failed on 4-4 partly line votes, with Republican Senators Greg Evers of Baker and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami absent.

One of those amendments, opposed by the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association, would have allowed motorists to employ a "rolling stop" at speeds up to 15 mph when taking a right-on-red turns if no pedestrians were in the crosswalk at camera-monitored intersections.

The committee also rejected, by a 5-3 vote, an amendment that would have required only warnings to be issued to owners of vehicles caught on camera going through traffic signals 0.5 seconds after the colors changed from yellow to red.

Brandes said he might reintroduce the amendments when the bill returns next week.

The Florida League of Cities have opposed Brandes' bill and similar attempts in the House to dramatically change red-light camera programs. Those groups contend the cameras are a public safety tool. Across Florida, at least 77 county and city governments operate red-light camera programs.

*Portions of this report were provided courtesy, by the News Service of Florida