The provision requiring cities to spend some of the resulting revenue on trauma care and traffic safety is intended to discourage use of the cameras as a municipal revenue windfall.
“We ought to ensure cities don’t use them as money-makers. We are taking some of the financial incentive away,” said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who chairs the Transportation & Homeland Security Committee and sponsored the legislation.
“Most cities were not eager to share their money. But when faced with the reality that some members wanted to outlaw them altogether, they realized this was the best option on the table.”
Senate Bill 125 limits the amount of money cities can keep to the cost of maintaining and operating red-light cameras.
The rest must be split evenly between traffic safety and a regional trauma account, so money stays in the area where it is collected. Notes accompanying the bill did not estimate how much money might be involved.
A second measure, Senate Bill 1199, gives cities the legislative authority to operate red-light cameras. It prohibits contracts between cities and vendors that base compensation on the number of citations issued. And it requires cities to study intersections’ traffic volume, collision history and frequency of red-light violations before installing cameras.
There were several attempts to gut Carona’s bills. He said he expects the legislation to have an equally rough time in the House, where the Urban Affairs Committee has left several red-light camera bills pending until the Senate acted.
Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, is sponsoring a bill that combines the two by Carona.
As far as I know, the city of Houston already meets most if not all of the criteria Carona lays out. I believe the main effect of this bill if it goes the distance would be to moot the Kubosh lawsuit, since cities would then quite clearly have the authority to install cameras and issue fines via their use. Since the leading opponent of red light cameras is Rep. Carl Isett, who has a bill filed to outlaw them, Carona’s measures may or may not make it through. There will certainly be a fight if and when they come up for a floor vote. Stay tuned.