4/4/2018Texas Lobbyist Kills Camera Ban With Family Ties
Activist group alleges red light camera industry lobbyist hid connection to state representative in killing photo enforcement ban.
A lobbyist for red light camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) used her insider connection to a top lawmaker to torpedo a proposed ban on photo ticketing, according to an ethics complaint filed earlier this year by the Texas Campaign for Liberty. In a letter sent this week, the Texas Elections Commission announced its decision to forgive the lobbyist, Mia McCord.
According to state lobbyist disclosure records, Mia McCord registered as an agent for "American Traffic Soluntoins [sic]" on April 25, 2017. McCord's goof was more than just an innocent typo, Byron Schirmbeck, the Texas coordinator for Campaign for Liberty insists.
"This makes this registration unsearchable under 'American Traffic Solutions,'" Schirmbeck wrote to the ethics commission. "I believe this was a deliberate attempt to conceal the relationship between her and the chief of staff of the representative that killed a bill that would have ended her clients' business."
Mia McCord is married to John McCord, the chief of staff for Texas state Representative Cindy Burkett. The close ties may have interested the traffic camera industry, which was extremely worried after a red light camera ban introduced by state Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) passed the Senate 25 to 6 in March 2017 (with a number of controversial amendments).
Under the Austin capital's informal procedures, committee members may "tag" a bill to quietly request that the chairman keep the measure from coming up for a committee hearing or making it to the House floor. Burkett had an additional reason to block the bill. She was running for the state Senate seat against Hall, the Senate ban bill's author.
"While we may never know for sure exactly who killed the bill, the only thing that fits all of the evidence from two sessions and multiple sources is that it was the now voted out Representative Burkett," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "ATS hired a lobbyist with no experience in transportation legislation at the last minute when the bill was in the hands of her husband's boss."
McCord had previously worked for state legislators before joining Sabrina T. Brown Consulting.
"She never lobbied any legislator working on a camera bill that I can find, and we were told from numerous sources that Burkett had killed the bill internally before we even found out that the lobbying reports were misspelled in a way that makes them hidden from searches," Schirmbeck explained. "ATS was paying her for something, and they got what they wanted -- the bill never even got a hearing in Burkett's committee."
Photo ticketing lobbyists also succeeded in convincing the House Transportation Committee chairman to block a ban in the 2015 session, just as they have controlled the process from the beginning. In 2003, a single sentence was inserted into a bill dealing with commercial motor vehicle standards effectively giving the green light to red light cameras without any public notice. The House's subsequent attempts to repeal the language of then-state Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) were repeatedly thwarted by the state Senate.
It only emerged later that a red light camera equipment provider had given Harper-Brown and her husband a 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan worth $55,000. The Texas Ethics decision decided to fine the lawmaker $2000 in 2012.