Bill banning red-light cameras in Florida introduced in Tallahassee

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauSeptember 4, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE — It’s bill-filing season again, so that can mean only one thing for red-light cameras: another attempt to remove them from public streets.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed Senate Bill 144 Wednesday. It would ban the use of red-light cameras, which are now flashing in at least 76 jurisdictions in Florida. “This program was originally sold as being about safety,” Brandes said. “I have come to believe that it’s now about revenue.”

Of the $158 collected from every citation, the state takes $83. The remaining $75 is split between municipality and camera vendor.

Between July 2012 and June, according to the Florida Department of Revenue, the cameras produced more than $62.5 million for the state.

The biggest player, by far, is Tempe, Ariz.-based American Traffic Solutions, which operates the cameras in about 70 cities and counties in the state, including Miami, Tampa, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale. It now has 24 lobbyists working in Tallahassee.

For good reason.

In each legislative session since red-light cameras were legalized in 2011, bills have been filed seeking their repeal. Charles Territo, an ATS spokesman, hardly sounded surprised when told about Brandes’ bill and a promised companion bill in the House by state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami.

“This feels like this is Groundhog Day,” Territo said. “I’m shocked.”

Territo countered the notion cameras are all about revenue with company stats. From the fourth quarter in 2011 to the second quarter in 2013, ATS records show, the average number of citations per camera dropped 40 percent for cameras installed before 2011 and by more than half for cameras installed between July 2011 and July 2012.

Brandes said the ban wouldn’t cancel existing contracts, but it would prohibit cities and counties renewing or signing new contracts with vendors if the bill is passed.

“We aim for full repeal,” he said. “But we might get a moratorium on new cameras, and that’s just fine. We need something because the system is broken.”

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