published Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Auto club bill sideswiped by traffic camera restrictions in House

NASHVILLE — A House bill that began as an update on services that can be offered by auto clubs on Thursday became a vehicle to restrict local government’s use of traffic enforcement cameras.

House members tabled an effort to ban the use of red-light and speeding cameras entirely but voted 86-7 and adopted an amendment placing new requirements on photo enforcement.

But the bill then was delayed until next week.

One of the approved restrictions says local governments cannot place or operate a camera on highways receiving state funds unless the location specifically is approved by a city council or county commission after two public hearings on different days.

Another states no traffic citation can be reported to the Tennessee Department of Safety or to any credit reporting agency for any purpose.

A third provision states a fine cannot exceed $50. Violators could not be charged more than $50 for late payments, and court costs could not be imposed unless the violator contests the citation.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, whose own bill to curb traffic enforcement cameras is trapped in the House Budget Subcommittee, urged colleagues to go along with the amendment, offered by Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, this amendment, but folks it’s the best we can do this year,” said Rep. Harmon, warning colleagues that senators might not accept further restrictions.

Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, a retired Chattanooga policeman who has fought efforts to ban the cameras, told the House that “I want to assure those from Hamilton County that this amendment being attached will not affect our ‘S’ curve cameras. Our ‘S’ curve cameras have saved lives.”

Matt Lea, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s special assistant, was at the Capitol. He said while there remains “confusion” about what the McCord amendment actually does, it likely would create some problems for the city’s photo-enforcement program.

For example, having to approve new sites by ordinance would affect the city’s ability to move quickly with its mobile photo-enforcement unit, he said.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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HenryTen said...

An article (headline: "Special License Plates Shield Officials from Traffic Tickets") pointed out that "in California there are nearly one million private vehicles having 'confidential' license plate numbers that are protected from easy or efficient look up, thus are effectively invisible to agencies attempting to process parking, toll, and red light camera violations." (OC Register, California, 4-4-08.) In 2009 the Register revisited the subject and reported that the legislature was extending the "confidential" treatment to even more people! Such "protected plate" lists exist in most states, including Tennessee, and many are bloated, like California's. (In California the list includes politicians - even local ones - judges, bureaucrats, and many other govt. employees. And their families! Plus such oddities as veterinarians and museum guards.) A TimesFreePress reporter should investigate to see how many, and who, are on the 'protected' list in Tennessee.

May 21, 2010 at 2:44 a.m.
bugaboo2 said...

I would really like to see the red light cameras up. There are some intersections that are just so dangerous. Hope they come to an agreement soon.

May 22, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.
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