The Maryland General Assembly yesterday gave final approval to a measure that will expand the use of speed cameras to every part of the state, allowing cameras on high-volume freeways for the first time. Lawmakers in Annapolis, at the urging of Governor Martin O'Malley (D), saw the measure as an essential means of reining in the state's run-away budget deficit. Traffic camera vendors also helped promote the effort with lavish gifts, parties and campaign donations.
The new legislation specifically authorizes the use of speed cameras anywhere in the state up to one-half a mile away from a school zone. School zone cameras can operate as late as 8pm and ticket motorists regardless of whether school is in session. It also creates a statewide freeway camera program designed to be used in so-called "work zones" where the speed limit is lowered, regardless of whether workers are actually present. On a freeway that ordinarily has a 55 MPH speed limit, for example, citations would be issued to anyone driving 57 MPH in the lowered speed zone. For-profit private companies are authorized to take charge of all aspects of the program.
Lawmakers turned aside a number of amendments intended to clarify the true purpose of the program. One rejected provision would have returned any profit from the program to the public in the form of a tax credit. Another would have required weekly calibrations be performed to ensure the accuracy of the tickets. Lawmakers also rejected an amendment that would have ensured that state legislators were not exempt from receiving photo radar tickets. They also turned down an amendment that would have printed on each ticket the names of lawmakers responsible for voting the camera bill into law.
The only limitation adopted was a provision limiting cities from using speed cameras to increase their general fund budgets by more than ten percent. This amendment was aimed at Chevy Chase, which doubled its annual revenue with photo ticketing.
After Governor O'Malley signs the bill it will take effect October 1. A copy of the legislation is available in a 350k PDF file at the source link below.