Cities and counties would lose most red light camera cash under billby John Kennedy | January 9th, 2014
Cities and counties would lose most of the money they get from red light cameras under legislation approved Thursday by a House panel, marking the latest blow by critics looking to remove the controversial devices.
The measure was tucked into a wide-ranging transportation bill. But camera defenders said it was way too early to predict that Thursday’s vote signals an end to the devices, which pulled more than $60 million into local government coffers last year.
“This is not the end of the journey, it is merely the beginning,” said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, a camera supporter and chairman of the House’s transportation budget committee, which positions him to block the fee-cut plan.
But Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who crafted the proposal that includes a moratorium on any new cameras being put up, said it was time to tell the truth about cameras.
“The purpose of this bill is to eliminate the profiteering by local governments,” Artiles said. “If it’s about safety, make it about safety.”
Used by 77 cities and counties, red light cameras may be facing their sternest test this year, since they were approved by the Legislature in 2010.
A year later, the House voted to repeal the authority for local governments – but couldn’t get the Senate to go along. This year, for the first time, legislation has been filed in both chambers to bar the cameras.
Camera companies, which contract with local governments, have muscled up for the legislative session beginning in March.
American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that contracts with local governments — including Palm Beach County — to install the cameras and commands about 80 percent of the Florida market, has 23 lobbyists poised to work state Capitol hallways next spring.
ATS also is an active political player, contributing $160,000 to the Florida Republican Party and $95,000 to the Florida Democratic Party over the past two years, records show.