MANATEE — Local lawmakers are already plotting a new effort to pass legislation regulating high-tech cameras which work in conjunction with traffic signals to automatically snap pictures of drivers who run red lights.
Supporters are optimistic about prospects for 2010.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, who for years has proposed uniform regulations to encourage statewide use of the cameras, plans to try again this year in the Florida House. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has already filed Senate Bill 0294, expected to be a companion bill in the Florida Senate.
All the measures have been named in honor of the late Mark Wandall, a Manatee County resident who died in a 2004 crash caused by a red-light runner.
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“The bill should be filed next week,” said Reagan, adding that he hoped this is the last time it has to be proposed.
“I feel pretty good about it,” said Bennett on Thursday. “I think there’s been enough local governments who have went out on their own and implemented local ordinances, so they’ve successfully screwed it up enough that statewide legislation is now necessary.”
Legislators want clear, consistent rules for enforcement statewide, Bennett said.
“People have a hard time dealing with rules if they don’t know what the hell the rules are,” said Bennett. “We want some reasonable structure, cameras that will pay for themselves without being a burden on the taxpayer,” he said. “We want violators to pay for the cameras, absolutely — regular citizens shouldn’t be supplementing this program.”
Bennett hoped all the details could be worked out well in advance of the spring legislative session, adding, “Trying to have everything worked out ahead of time is the No. 1 strategy.”
Last year, a similar measure died in the final days of the session after a squabble over how money collected from violators should be divided. Violators would be fined between $125 and $150 per incident, potentially creating a multi-million dollar pool of money that sets the cash-starved Florida Legislature salivating.
Reagan’s 2009 bill would have created the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program, to be administered by state Department of Transportation. It provided uniform rules for enforcement of traffic control signals using automatic cameras; required annual reports from counties and municipalities on use of the cameras, and split money generated by fines among trauma centers, hospitals, nursing homes, health units and programs.
Wandall’s widow, Melissa Wandall, who still lives near the intersection at S.R. 70 and Tara Boulevard where her husband was killed, has made annual lobbying visits to Tallahassee since his death.
She has been active with The Mark Wandall Foundation, which aids local charities and helps to educate drivers about the dangers of red-light running. A fundraiser benefitting the foundation is set for Saturday at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch. For information, consult the foundation Web site, www.TheMarkWandallFoundation.org, or call (941) 545-3359.
From what Melissa Wandall has heard, local lawmakers hope to have everything settled before their colleagues gather for the spring session in Tallahassee.
“They’re trying to work everything out, they want House and Senate bills to be compatible going in.” Wandall said.
Asked for her prognosis for passage this year, Wandall said, “If we have Sen. Bennett as the sponsor...if he takes the lead, we have a fabulous chance of passing this bill.”
“I think this bill has been out there way too long to wait until the end to solve things,” she noted. “When you wait to the end, there is never a good outcome.”