Auto club bill sideswiped by traffic camera restrictions in House

Auto club bill sideswiped by traffic camera restrictions in House

May 20th, 2010 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

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.