THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Cities Still Waiting for Movement on Red Light Cameras

Feb 25, 2010

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA published this article on February 24, 2010.


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Feb. 24, 2010……..A court decision this week banning the city of Aventura from ticketing red light runners caught on camera is one of the first decisions on whether or not the cameras can be used in Florida, but other municipalities are still waiting for some form of statewide guidance on the issue.

Several municipalities have pushed ahead with the use of red-light cameras to catch traffic violators, despite opponents who have argued that only state lawmakers can change the traffic laws. Without a change to state law, the only other option for clarifying the question statewide is for the Supreme Court to rule on the Aventura case, or another like it.

“Both sides are waiting to see what the other side is going to do,” said Eric Hartwell, a lawyer for the Florida League of Cities, which supports the use of red light cameras.

Earlier this week, a Miami-Dade circuit judge issued a verbal ruling from the bench that the city of Aventura could not use the cameras to catch red light runners. The city is still deciding how to proceed, but if it appeals, it may be the first major case on the issue to hit the appeals level, a step forward in setting a statewide precedent.

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is examining three bills that legalize the use of the cameras. One, (HB 325) passed its first committee test last month, and is now in the House Health Care Regulation Policy Committee. If it is approved there, it will go to the Finance and Tax Committee. Two Senate bills have not yet had a committee hearing.

The legislation has failed before. Last year, a measure laying out the standards for red light cameras died as it was passed back and forth between the two chambers on the final night of the legislative session, the victim of a dispute over who would get the money. The House had wanted the fines collected to go to a combination of local governments, hospitals and the state, but the Senate wanted more of the money to come to the state general fund.

The issue has taken hold nationwide too. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states debated bills related to automated enforcement in 2009. Some bills gave municipalities or counties the ability to use red light cameras, while other states banned their use completely.