DES MOINES — Opponents of traffic enforcement cameras are going to take another run at banning the devices statewide this legislative session.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, filed three bills Wednesday dealing with red-light and speed-monitoring cameras, such as those operating in Davenport, Muscatine and other Iowa cities.
One would ban the devices effective July 1, and others would seek to place new restrictions and regulations on local governments to cap fines for violations and designate some of the revenue from the automated enforcement for other uses.
“I’m hearing from more and more Iowans,” Zaun said. “I think the support to get rid of these is growing rather than shrinking.”
Zaun said he expects the 2013 session at least would produce some limitations and restrictions on the operation of traffic-enforcement cameras.
Last session, the Iowa House voted 58-42 to ban traffic enforcement cameras, but the issue never came to a vote in the Iowa Senate. Zaun said the Iowa General Assembly has 37 new members this year, so the prospect for legislative action on the issue is uncertain this early in the process.
Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who took over as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the Iowa Department of Transportation has issued guidelines for the operation of automated enforcement devices. He said he wants to use those guidelines as a starting point for possible policy changes that could include uniform citations for violations or other operational rules that would assume their continued use by local jurisdictions with local control to enhance safety.
“I don’t think we’re going to eliminate them completely. I’d say that’s probably a pretty accurate statement,” Bowman said. “The big thing for me is safety. To a certain degree, the argument becomes should I be able to break the law without having any consequences just because a police officer is not right there to catch you? To me, that’s condoning the wrong behavior.”
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Bowman said he was willing to have a discussion about reshaping the regulations for operating traffic-enforcement devices.
“I’m going to be having a lot of conversations with people that have interest in this area and listen and see what direction we want to go,” he said. “It is going to be discussed. Where it goes from there, we’ll see, but it’s not a closed door. We are going to look at it.”
Zaun said his preference is to ban the devices outright, but he also is looking at options to limit how much camera operators can receive as a share of the proceeds, as well as ways to require that the excess revenue generated by traffic enforcement cameras be deposited into trust accounts that fund local nonprofit organizations or provide money for people involved in accidents with uninsured drivers. He also favors putting the excess proceeds after contract obligations are paid to the camera operators into the state road use tax fund.
Davenport collected $1.34 million in revenue from traffic cameras during fiscal year 2011. That revenue goes into the city's general fund, but it is tabbed for public safety use, such as police overtime and operating the traffic camera program in the police department's traffic division.
Gov. Terry Branstad has said he would sign legislation to ban traffic-monitoring devices if the legislature sends a bill to his desk.