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Montana Legislature Votes to Ban Red Light Cameras
The Montana state House and Senate each approved legislation that would ban red light cameras.

Senator John Esp
The Montana state Senate yesterday gave preliminary approval to legislation that would ban the installation of red light cameras. The Senate voted 37-13 in support of the bill which must face one more vote before the modified legislation heads back to the state House for its consent.

The state House originally approved a total ban on red light cameras by a 65-35 margin (view bill). State Senator John Brueggeman (R-Polson) changed the House text to water down the bill with a special exemption for Bozeman, Darby and any other city that inks a contract with a private contractor to run a ticketing program in return for a cut of the profit before the legislation becomes law.

"I think [the ban] is a good idea because I am not a fan of red light cameras and I'm not a fan of photo enforcement of traffic laws," Brueggeman said. "What this [amendment] would do is a sort of savings clause... It would say look, if you've put the infrastructure in already we're not going to force you to take it out."

Although Bozeman's contractor, Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems, has installed some cameras in the city, they are temporary installations that are easily removed. Lobbyists for Bozeman and Redflex pressured senators hard to keep their ability to ticket motorists for good, but twelve senators opposed Brueggeman's amendment.

"I think this amendment is a kind of poison pill for this bill because... any city that wants to get around the law that we've proposed will go out and get a contract before the bill goes into effect," state Senator John Esp (R-Big Timber) said. "What I think would be more fair is that any contract in place this day could be carried until the end of the contract but not renewed."

The House sponsors of the bill made it known that they opposed the carve out for Bozeman. Unless the House agrees to accept the Senate version without changes, a conference committee will try to reach a compromise, perhaps along the lines of Esp's suggestion. Such a compromise would become law once the bill is adopted by the House and Senate and signed by Governor Brian Schweitzer (D).

Alaska, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin banned automated citations either through judicial or legislative action. In other cases, the public has taken matters into its own hands. Cincinnati and Steubenville, Ohio recently voted to ban speed and red light cameras. Between 1991 and 1997, voters also turned out in Batavia, Illinois; Peoria, Arizona and Anchorage, Alaska to reject photo radar.

The text of the Senate version of HB531 is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 531 - Senate version (Montana Legislature, 3/31/2009)

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