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Missouri: House Committee Votes to Expand Traffic Cameras
Missouri House Transportation Committee adopts legislation encouraging cities to install red light cameras.

Kenny Jones
The Missouri House Transportation Committee voted last week to encourage municipalities to install red light cameras. Existing state laws do not authorize the use of automated ticketing machines, but, beginning with Arnold in 2005, several cities have gambled that such a bill would be forthcoming. State Representative Kenny Jones (R-California) obliged by introducing a bill on behalf of the photo ticketing industry that granting that authority. According to state Attorney General Jay Nixon, without authorization these tickets would not hold up in court.

This consideration has compelled photo enforcement companies to create a nationwide lobbying effort encouraging lawmakers to pass bills that would allow the industry to avoid expensive and costly court cases. Ticket companies lost a case defending an unauthorized system before the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007, but won before Ohio's highest court in January. An identical case is currently pending in the Iowa Supreme Court.

Jones' legislation codifies the existing practice of traffic camera companies and municipalities. Its only protections for drivers include a provision that the state department of transportation certify signal timing and a requirement that cities provide an annual report on the amount of revenue collected. The bill creates the presumption that the owner of a vehicle is guilty of a red light camera violation unless he can prove his own innocence.

Local officials were the first to succumb to industry lobbying efforts. In Kansas City, for example, a traffic engineer promoted a ticketing system just months before taking a lucrative position with speed camera firm Traffipax -- in violation of a municipal law governing ethics. Despite the conflict, Mayor Kay Barnes wrote enthusiastically about the program in her 2006-07 budget proposal.

"The implementation of photo-radar would also have positive benefits from additional revenues generated by traffic fines," Barnes wrote. "Should the city council consider this program, it could be a way for the city to increase revenues."

The cities implementing photo ticketing have also succeeded in generating significant revenue by citing vehicle owners confronted by quick yellow lights. In Arnold, for example, a motorist was mailed a ticket photograph where one signal showed a red light but an adjacent signal was still yellow. A complete copy of the legislation is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 1772 (Missouri General Assembly, 5/6/2008)

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