State Politics

Red-light camera bill fails to pass during session

MANATEE — Time ran out Friday on a bill that would have allowed counties and municipalities to use cameras to help curb red-light running.

House Bill 439, The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program, is named after a Tara resident, killed in a traffic accident by a red-light runner Oct. 24, 2004, at State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard.

His widow, Melissa Wandall, has fought for a red-light bill ever since.

A disappointed Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, the speaker pro tempore of the Florida House, sponsored the bill and promised he would try again next year.

He accused the Florida Senate of intentionally killing the bill through legislative maneuvering.

“They were trying to put the state into the red light business, and I refused to do that,” Reagan said.

The House was willing to increase the state’s share of fines from red light running from 20 percent to 30 percent, which would have put an estimated $220 million into state coffers annually, Reagan said.

But senators wanted a bigger share, estimated at between $400 million and $500,000, Reagan said.

“Now, they get nothing,” he said.

In the interim, Reagan said he is encouraging cities and counties to proceed with the installation of the red-light cameras on their own.

Neil Spiritas, vice president of STOP Red Light Running Coalition of Florida, Inc., said earlier Friday he feared the bill was in trouble.

Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, was one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

In the past, it was the Florida House that killed the bill, Fitzgerald said. He said it was ironic this year that the Senate killed the bill.

Melissa Wandall, who was pregnant when her husband was killed, and gave birth to a daughter a few weeks after his death, worked closely with supporters of the bill this legislative session.

She was unavailable for comment after the bill failed.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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