6/12/2019Texas Lawmaker Introduces Federal Photo Enforcement Ban
Texas congressman seeks to bring the ban on red light cameras to the rest of the country.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) received a great deal of acclaim last week as he added his signature to a partial ban on red light cameras that, so far, has shut down a majority of automated ticketing programs in the Lone Star State. US Representative Ron Wright, a Republican representing Arlington, Waxahachie and Corsicana in Congress, wants to replicate that success nationwide with the Traffic Camera Freedom Act.
Introduced last month, Wright's four-page bill would use the congressional power over federal transportation funding to actively discourage cities around the country from deploying speed cameras and red light cameras. The proposal forces each state legislature to enact legislation outlawing automated ticketing machines or face the loss of one-half of the state's share of the federal gasoline tax levy. That $42 billion pool of cash is divided up among the states according to a complicated formula. The Texas share is $3.8 billion, while smaller states like Rhode Island get $236 million.
"A state meets the requirements of this subsection if the state has enacted and is enforcing a law that prohibits the use of automated traffic enforcement systems," the proposal, HR 2962 states.
Already, red light cameras and speed cameras are outlawed in eighteen states (view list), although that count includes states like Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska where legal rulings made it clear that photo ticketing is already unlawful under existing state laws. Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin have explicit laws that either ban cameras outright or set conditions that make them impossible to use in practice.
The federal government played a key role in the early development of red light cameras and speed cameras with the US Departments of Transportation and Defense providing critical seed money for their development prior to 1997. Five cities that were among the early adopters of photo enforcement were paid to do so by the Federal Highway Administration, including Beaverton, Oregon and Washington, DC.
Given the current split between the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate, Wright's proposal has little chance of passage as a free-standing measure. However, a number of less ambitious bans on federal funding for red light cameras have been rolled into sprawling transportation funding bills. A ban on using transportation funds for cameras has been in place since 2015. Congress also enacted a requirement that states with photo ticketing programs submit a report every two years containing performance data on the systems. States mostly ignored the legal requirement and last year sent in unverified survey responses that contained incorrect and incomplete data.
Wright's plan believes withholding $42 billion in transportation funding will leverage better compliance from the states. A copy of the bill is available in a 400k PDF file at the source link below.