The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon pushed forward yet another attempt to ban red-light cameras in the state. In a 91-22 vote, the House voted to do just that, but the effort is likely in vain.
Thursday’s action was the House’s fourth attempt since the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act passed in 2010. The House was unsuccessful in its first attempt, but has now passed a repeal bill three years in a row. However, the Florida Senate shot down the 2015 and 2016 House bills and last month, a Senate companion bill never even made it out of the Florida Senate Transportation Committee.
Wandall, a Bradenton resident, was killed several years ago by a red-light runner. His wife, Melissa, spearheaded the legislation. Melissa Wandall, now president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads, has had a yearly battle in Tallahassee. She said the House effort to push through yet another attempt is simply political wrangling.
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“It’s the same stuff they do every year,” Wandall said. “The House wanted to take it all the way to the floor even though it’s essentially dead in the Senate. But I’ve been doing this long enough to never say never. The issue is, you would think that some of these lawmakers would have more important things to do. If they have a problem with parts of the bill, then let’s fix it. But all they want to talk about is repeal, repeal, repeal.”
Wandall said given the Senate’s action, “Let’s not waste everyone’s time on this.”
This is not a game. This is really serious and we all need to take part in saving lives.
Melissa Wandall, president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads
There has been no movement in the Senate since the bill died in the transportation committee, but that doesn’t mean the House vote won’t inspire action. If a state senator does bring forward a new measure to support the House bill, it would have to begin the committee process all over again.
Should that happen, Wandall said she is prepared and determined to renew her fight to protect her husband’s “life-saving legacy. I wish they would look at helping us with the 40,000 people dying on roads across the country. We need to start taking highway safety seriously. When they work against safety enforcement, they are not being part of the solution.”
Wandall said she is confident the Senate won’t waste its time and will continue to “take part in saving lives. I truly know the benefits of law enforcement, education and automated safety enforcement. It can’t be repealed without the Senate, and all they are doing is playing with people’s lives. This is not a game. This is really serious, and we all need to take part in saving lives.”
In the meantime, Bradenton officials have remained in limbo to see what the Legislature would once again do. The city turned off its seven red-light cameras last August. The move to do so had to do more with the vendor than whether the council supports the program. The city had intended to move forward with a new vendor search, but that has stalled pending action in the Legislature.
“It’s silly to keep waiting,” Wandall said. “If cities and counties keep putting this off because of the way the House votes every year, then they are not helping themselves and not helping our cause to remind people to be safe. And people do need reminding. This game has been going on for seven years. The Senate says this is the law. There is no reason to wait.”
Manatee County’s contract with its red-light camera vendor expires in 2018 and commissioners continue discussions on whether to renew. The county installed its 10th camera in October.