11/20/2014Ohio Senate Votes To Save Speed Cameras
Fearing passage of a total ban on speed cameras and red light cameras, Ohio Senate passes a camera authorization measure.
Ohio state senators are looking to deflect an attempt by the state House to ban red light cameras and speed cameras. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 24 to 9 in favor of a measure that allows members to vote "against" automated ticketing machines without actually banning their use.
State Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) came up with the plan to merge proposals from camera supporters and camera opponents. Voters in eleven Ohio cities have used ballot initiatives to outlaw traffic cameras (view list) with language that says cities may not use cameras unless a police officer witnesses the alleged violation and personally hands the ticket to the driver.
The Seitz bill takes the requirement of having an officer present, but he leaves out personal service of the citation. The change allows tickets to continue to be issued in the same automated fashion as they are today. Under the bill, the officer who sits with the camera and "witnesses" the violation is not necessarily the same person who approves and issues the ticket.
"If a traffic law photo-monitoring device records a traffic law violation and the law enforcement officer who was present at the location of the traffic law photo-monitoring device does not issue a ticket... the local authority may only issue a ticket in accordance with sections 4511.096 to 4511.0912 of the Revised Code," Senate Bill 342 states.
Those code sections explain that a city can take the tickets submitted by a private vendor, "examine" them, and have them mailed to the registered owner. The provisions are lifted verbatim from the proposal of state Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park), a supporter of photo ticketing who cited statistics supplied by the Traffic Safety Coalition, a front group run by a public relations firm on behalf of Redflex Traffic Systems.
"I think that we have a model, while not perfect, I think would serve as one in which [the cameras] could be retained and safety standards be maintained," Bacon explained. "My concern in looking at this is based on what other cities have done when they've removed these cameras is an increase in accidents."
Seitz claimed that his bill would serve as a more effective ban than legislation from the state House.
"Our friends in the House decided to introduce House Bill 69 -- a bipartisan bill led by Representative Mallory and Representative Maag, which passed the House and which bans the use of such devices altogether except for a very limited purpose in school zones," Seitz said. "Well, the problem with that as I tried to explain to my wonderful friends in the House is that approach likely runs afoul of the home rule provision of the constitution which basically says we cannot ban things in cities. Rather we have the power to regulate things in cities pursuant to a general law of uniform operation throughout the state."
Seitz chose regulations that reflect existing practices in several jurisdictions, including Washington, DC and Canada. There, police officers are stationed in speed camera vehicles. Seitz admitted that his actions were motivated by public opinion.
"We now have the opportunity to provide that system of statewide regulation, vindicate ourselves in the eyes of the adoring public -- witness the recent vote in Cleveland -- and move forward with other, more important issues," Seitz said.
A copy of Senate Bill 342 is available in a 130k PDF file at the source link below.