Lawmakers Debate Red Light Cameras

The debate over red light cameras is making its way through the law system, both at the judicial and the legislative levels. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, Texas lawmakers are all over the page when it comes to red light cameras.

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Right now, state law doesn't prohibit red light cameras. An opinion issued last year by Attorney General Greg Abbott states TXDOT is allowed to put them up on state roads. But there's little legal precedent for whether local municipalities such as the city of Houston can use them to enforce traffic laws on non-state roads. About half a dozen bills relating to red light cameras are filed in this year's legislative session. Some lawmakers, including State Senator Mike Jackson want to prohibit the cameras altogether.

"If they can do this, why wouldn't they be able to just set up something to check people's speed and mail them -- take a picture of their license plate and mail them a ticket for that. It takes -- you know you could go through a whole plethora of circumstances that could be done via video."

Jackson says he's concerned about the possible violation of civil rights. He's also skeptical about the revenue streams from red light cameras.

"The bottom line is that it's a very affordable way for municipalities to receive revenue that they otherwise wouldn't have."

Of course, not everyone agrees with Senator Jackson's bill to abolish the cameras. His colleague in the Senate, Royce West filed a bill of his own to authorize the use of red light cameras. Ann Travis, the director of government affairs for the city of Houston, is watching the progress of both these bills.

"We just now have started having hearings on these things. So we'll -- I think we'll have a better sense probably in a few weeks. But, you know, the prohibition of -- the efforts to prohibit cities from doing these programs did not pass last time."

In fact, the proposed prohibition on red light cameras last session passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. This year, it's a bit of an unknown because there are five freshman senators whose voting record on this issue is untried. And that's if either of these bills even makes it to the floor for a vote. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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