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6/27/2008Arizona Drops Speed Camera Points
New statewide Arizona freeway speed camera tickets will come without points.
In a severe blow to the insurance industry, the cash-strapped Arizona state legislature yesterday approved an expansive speed camera program designed to boost state revenue by dropping license points and eliminating costly legal challenges. Governor Janet Napolitano (D) first announced the proposal in January, expecting it to generate $165 million in revenue from new $165 "civil" tickets mailed to vehicle owners.
The plan was adopted as part of a much larger $9.9 billion budget package that passed 16-10 in the state Senate and 31-29 in the House. Lawmakers had been desperate to find new ways to cover a $2 billion deficit. The approved budget authorizes the Department of Public Safety to hand a private company up to $20,361,300 to set up and operate speed cameras on freeways throughout the state. The first $3 million of net profit generated will go to police agencies to buy tasers, $4 million will go to the courts and the remainder will be deposited in the general fund for spending by lawmakers.
Until now, Arizona had been one of a handful of states, including California, Colorado and Illinois, to issue points against the driver's license of the owner of a car accused by a machine of speeding. Although motorists may prefer not having points on their license, the change to a civil citation is designed to reduce costs and court challenges. Instead of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, the state will only need to show that it was "likely" that a vehicle was speeding. The owner of the car would then be liable, regardless of whether he was actually driving.
Operational costs are also reduced as extra cameras will no longer be needed to capture a driver's face. Under civil rules, a snapshot of a license plate will suffice. That means the state will no longer lose tickets because, for example, sun glare obscured the driver's face. Last year, a photo enforcement vendor recommended dropping points to boost the odds of photo ticketing's statewide political survival.
On the other side of the issue, insurance companies, including the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have spent millions promoting the use of photo ticketing technology with the hope that all such programs would eventually issue points. Outside the United States, nearly every country that uses speed cameras issues points, generating billions in revenue from annual premium surcharges. Insurance lobbyists were disappointed by yesterday's vote.
State of Arizona
House of Representatives
Forty-eighth Legislature, Second Regular Session, 2008
HOUSE BILL 2210 (excerpts)
41-1722. State photo enforcement system; penalties; fund
a. notwithstanding any other law, the department shall enter into a contract or contracts with a private vendor or vendors pursuant to chapter 23 of this title to establish a state photo enforcement system consisting of cameras placed throughout this state as determined by the director to enforce the provisions of title 28, chapter 3, articles 3 and 6 relating to vehicle traffic and speed.
b. Notwithstanding any other law, the civil penalty or fine for a citation or a notice of violation issued pursuant to this section is one hundred sixty-five dollars and is not subject to any surcharge except the surcharge imposed by section 16‑954. State photo enforcement citations shall not be included in judicial productivity credit calculations for fiscal year 2008‑2009.
c. The photo enforcement fund is established consisting of monies received from citations or notices of violation issued pursuant to this section. The director shall administer the fund. Monies in the fund are subject to legislative appropriation and are appropriated to the department for administrative and personnel costs of the state photo enforcement system. monies remaining in the fund in excess of two hundred fifty thousand dollars at the end of each calendar quarter shall be deposited, pursuant to sections 35-146 and 35-147, in the state general fund.
d. Notwithstanding any other law, If a person is found responsible for a civil traffic violation or a notice of violation pursuant to a citation issued pursuant to this section, the department of transportation shall not consider the violation for the purpose of determining whether the person's driver license should be suspended or revoked. A court shall not transmit abstracts of records of these violations to the department of transportation.
41-1723. Public safety equipment fund; distribution
The public safety equipment fund is established consisting of monies deposited in the fund pursuant to sections 5‑395.01, 5-396, 5-397, 28-1381, 28-1382, 28-1383, 28-8284, 28-8286, 28-8287 and 28-8288. The department shall administer the fund. Monies in the fund shall be distributed as follows:
1. The first three million dollars received each fiscal year as a continuing appropriation to the department for protective armor, electronic stun devices and other safety equipment. Monies appropriated pursuant to this paragraph are exempt from the provisions of section 35-190 relating to lapsing of appropriations.
2. All other monies each fiscal year shall be deposited in the state general fund.
Sec. 35. Photo enforcement fund; appropriations
A. In fiscal year 2008‑2009, the department of public safety shall not spend more than $2,173,000 from the photo enforcement fund established by section 41‑1722, Arizona Revised Statutes, as added by this act, for department personnel and related expenditures.
B. The sum of $4,056,600 is appropriated in fiscal year 2008‑2009 from the photo enforcement fund to the administrative office of the courts for processing of state photo enforcement citations.
C. The sum of $20,361,300 is appropriated in fiscal year 2008‑2009 from the photo enforcement fund to the department of public safety for contract payments to private vendors for the operation of photo enforcement cameras and the processing of citations.