Lawmaker wants to stop red light cameras
www2.hernandotoday.com – All eyes are looking toward Florida lawmakers to determine whether red light cameras will be accepted statewide as one Spring Hill state representative files a bill opposing their use.
State Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, announced Thursday his filing of a bill that would forbid local governments from enforcing traffic laws using red light cameras.
In a press release Thursday, Schenck reiterated his previous stance against governments using red light cameras as a revenue source â€” taking aim at red light camera programs in Brooksville and other cities.
As of the first of the year, Schenck said Brooksville has issued more than 5,000 tickets using the cameras. He said the city and others across the state use the cameras to increase revenue in light of falling property values.
“I do not believe it is right for local governments to use cameras as a means to increase falling revenue under the guise of public safety,” Schenck said. “I believe this is nothing more than a hidden tax on my constituents and to the citizens of the state of Florida.”
Schenck said Thursday he believes the issue will be strongly debated in the House â€” particularly since it’s rare to have two bills at odds on an issue.
Earlier this year, a Senate and House bill were filed that would allow for red light camera initiatives to be used statewide â€” a measure similar to Brooksville’s existing red light ordinance.
The difference is, if approved, the bills would increase ticket costs from $125 to $150 and the state would get a $75 cut, with $55 going to the state’s general fund and $20 to the Department of Health Administrative Trust Fund.
The remaining $75 would go to the municipality where the infraction occurred.
Schenck has voiced opposition to those bills as well because they would be used as a revenue source to the state.
Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said he believes the measure in favor of using red light cameras will pass this year and red light cameras will eventually be used throughout the state.
For Brooksville, he said the cameras have been a safety measure that has helped decrease traffic accidents in the city by 35 percent â€” from 299 in 2008 to 193 in 2009, a difference of 106 accidents.
“You never really know what the Legislature is going to do,” Turner said. “But I think there’s a majority of people in favor of these red light bills. Unlike last year, I think they’ll pass. People like them because they make the roads safer.”
Schenck’s filing of his bill follows a ruling from a Miami-Dade circuit judge this week who stated that the city of Aventura couldn’t use the cameras to enforce traffic laws.
Scott Dudley, an advocate with the Florida League of Cities and a proponent of the red light cameras, said those on both sides of the issue are waiting to hear the written ruling from the judge in the case.
However, he said the only thing for certain is that state lawmakers will have to clarify the issue.
“(The ruling) gives some indication of the judicial temperament toward the legal arguments for and against red light cameras,” Dudley said. “And it signals the need for cities to urge their legislators to support legislation that will unequivocally legitimize any existing red light traffic enforcement devices already in place and support existing home rule authority of cities to regulate local activity in this area.”