11/16/2017Ohio Lawmaker Takes Another Shot At Speed Cameras
Ohio legislation would once again take aim at traffic cameras by eliminating the profit motive and allowing tickets to be contested in court.
The Ohio General Assembly has been reluctant to ban red light cameras and speed cameras. Instead of outright repealing the authorization granted by the state for their use, lawmakers in 2014 passed a handful of minor restrictions (view law) and called it a ban. Even this was too much for the state Supreme Court which ruled in July that restrictions that failed to serve an "overriding statewide purpose" were invalid (view ruling).
Enter state Representative Bill Seitz, the newly elected House majority leader, with a plan to rein in the cameras using the legislature's constitutional power over the budget as well as its power to organize municipal courts. The Cincinnati Republican's bill would, if passed, require all traffic tickets to be heard in a municipal or county court. This would mean photo tickets would no longer be contested in an administrative hearing run by lawyers who answer to the local mayor. It also means a substantial portion of the system's profit would be kept by the courts in the form of court costs and fees.
Each year, municipalities using cameras would have to report to the state tax commissioner how much cash has been collected from motorists. The state would then deduct that amount from state aid payments to the city or town.
The measure does not touch any aspect of the existing photo ticketing law beyond outlawing administrative hearings. It even adds a provision stating that payment of a photo ticket is "admitting liability" for the alleged violation, whereas the previous version of the law only said paying a ticket counts as "failing to contest" that liability.
While Seitz has introduced a payment withholding measure that did not pass in previous legislative sessions, lawmakers may be newly motivated to take action after the state Supreme Court involved itself in the public policy debate. Seitz championed the fake ban approach in 2014, arguing an actual ban would be found unconstitutional, but it was his compromise that was deemed unlawful. The new plan of withholding cash from camera cities was endorsed by House Majority Whip Thomas F. Patton (R-Strongville) and Representative Jim Butler (R-Oakwood), the chairman of the Civil Justice Committee, demonstrating leadership support for the effort.
Voters in Ohio have rejected speed cameras at the ballot box in eight cities. A copy of the bill is available in a 260k PDF file at the source link below.