Lawmakers Make U-Turn On Red Light Cameras - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/18/07

Lawmakers Make U-Turn On Red Light Cameras

New legislation just passed by Governor Rick Perry, would allow Texas lawmakers to ban red light cameras in 2009, but one Lubbock City Councilman says that's not soon enough.

The new batch of laws put several restrictions on red light cameras. Lawmakers put a $75 cap on citations, mandated that half the money goes to area trauma centers, and if cities can't prove the cameras increase safety, lawmakers can ban them.

"When you hear from the cities about how much money they're raising from these, it really does help substantiate the argument that these are about money not safety," State Representative Carl Isett said. 

That's why Isett authored an amendment to Senate Bill 1119 requiring studies to show whether the cameras increase safety or just city budgets.  The same amendment would do away with red light cameras after September 1, 2009 unless the legislature specifically authorizes the system.

"I'm introducing a resolution at next Tuesday's council meeting that will cancel the red light camera contract," Councilman John Leonard said. 

"I don't think it's a business the city should be in. From the beginning I said it was nothing but a money grab," Leonard added. 

That grab lost some of its grip with House Bill 1623. It puts a cap on what cities can charge for a red light camera citation at $75, and profits will be split with the state.

"The first thing that happens is the contractor gets paid, and then the second thing is that the rest of the money is split in half," Isett said. 

The state will take half of the revenue, and use it to help fund local trauma centers. The city will receive the remaining money, but they can't spend it on just anything.

"They said you can pay for the red light cameras, the infrastructure to support them, but then they're going to also tell us what to do with our 50% which is it needs to go to public safety improvements," Leonard said. 

"While we may have taken some of the financial incentive away, I don't know that it will be enough to call them done," Isett said. 

"I think we can get them down as fast as we put them up," Leonard said. 

The new laws also stop the state from using credit agencies to make people pay citations. It would allow TxDOT to refuse to register a vehicle that has a citation listed to it, but folks with out of state plates couldn't be forced to pay.

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