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Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Expand Traffic Camera Use
Louisiana Senate committee adopts legislation giving municipalities the green light to use speed cameras and red light cameras.

Troy Hebert
A Louisiana state Senate committee voted last Thursday to give the green light to municipalities eager to expand the use of red light cameras and speed cameras throughout the state. The Senate Local and Municipal Affairs panel approved a measure introduced by state Senator Troy Hebert (D-Jeanerette) that would grant specific, state-level authorization for the use of cameras to ticket motorists. Although Hebert claimed personally to oppose automated ticketing, during the hearing he reassured representatives from local governments and Australian traffic camera vendor Redflex that he supported what they were doing.

"I will give my word that I will not allow any amendment that would prevent these individuals from doing what they're doing," Hebert said.

An early version of Hebert's legislation did impose a ban on contingent fee contracts that compensate photo ticketing companies based on the number of citations issued. Committee members struck this provision, even though it is routinely ignored in other states. California cities, for example, claim that using a "cost neutrality" clause allows them to pay vendors based on the numbers of citations issued despite the state's ban on the practice.

The only remaining restriction in Hebert's bill would prohibit cities like Lafayette from taking photographs of the front of a vehicle to help identify the driver. Banning these photos would allow the city to issue more, not fewer, citations. Jurisdictions that take both front and rear photographs of automobiles end up throwing out many otherwise viable tickets when the driver's image is obscured. Taking half the number of photographs also increases the profitability of the system.

City Prosecutor Art Boudreaux appeared before the committee to defend Baton Rouge's photo enforcement program. Asked if he had any problem with the legislation, he replied, "I don't think I do." No members of the public were invited to speak.

Hebert's legislation now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Article Excerpt:
SENATE BILL NO. 396 (as amended)
Regular Session, 2008
PUBLIC CONTRACTS. Provides for certain restrictions for local governments contracting with private companies for a fee or contingency basis. (6/1/08)

To enact R.S. 33:1372.1, relative to municipalities and parishes; to provide certain restrictions on local governments contracting with private companies for enforcement of certain traffic ordinances using cameras; to prohibit release of certain information on individuals for the collection of fines or penalties; and to provide for related matters.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:
Section 1. R.S. 33:1372.1 is hereby enacted to read as follows:

1372.1. Traffic enforcement; use of photographic systems

A. The use of cameras or similar photographic monitoring system by a parish or municipal governing authority for the enforcement of speed limits, speed zones, or the movement of traffic through the parish or municipality shall be subject to the provisions of this Section.

B. Photographs of a motor vehicle shall be restricted to the images of the rear area of the motor vehicle and the license plate number and no photograph shall be taken of the operator or any occupant of the motor vehicle. Only the photographic image of the rear area of the motor vehicle and the license plate number shall be permitted as evidence of a violation.

C. Any renewal or renegotiation of a contract executed by a parish or municipal governing authority prior to August 1, 2008 which is in conflict with the provisions of this Section shall, upon such renewal or renegotiation, be amended to comply with the provisions of this Section.

Section 2. This Act shall be become effective August 1, 2008.

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