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New Bill Would Ban Traffic Cameras if Police Aren't Posted Nearby

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Months after a ban on traffic cameras used by cities was passed by the House, it hasn’t moved in the Senate. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports a new measure has been proposed, and for those who’ve been following the traffic camera debate over the years, it sounds very familiar.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 9:42 am

The new bill would ban cities from using traffic cameras unless law enforcement officers are posted with those cameras to witness the violations. It would set up a process by which drivers could appeal their citations to municipal court.

Its sponsor is Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, a longtime critic of red light and speed cameras. He says this bill is quite different from a bill that passed the House last fall, which he says was an outright ban on traffic cameras.

“Under the Home Rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution, it is at least arguable that the state does not have the power simply to command cities not to do things," Seitz said. "We can, however, provide a uniform statewide method of operation, and that then binds the cities as well as everybody else.”

But the group that lobbies on behalf of Ohio’s cities says in practical terms, this bill is basically a ban on traffic cameras.

Sue Cave is the executive director of the Ohio Municipal League.

“I think that it’s a not-so-veiled effort to prevent cities from using photo-enforcement of traffic laws," Cave said. "Because that really adds an enormous cost to the city to have stationed at every camera location – which is I think what they’re trying to get at – a uniformed police officer.”

Cave said the cameras help the cities enforce the traffic laws that the legislature has passed, which make intersections safer.

Seitz says he isn’t surprised at the Municipal League’s reaction to his bill, saying that he simply doesn’t believe that claim of safety.

“If you believe their argument that these photo-monitoring devices have reduced accidents and promoted safety, then my question is why is it that no photo-monitoring device has ever been removed?" Seitz said. "They only keep adding more.”

Cave says the cameras do make money, but they also save cities money on enforcing traffic laws while still ensuing other laws are also being followed.

“If you had to station a police officer at every intersection where there have been a lot of accidents all the time, you would have to dramatically increase your force," she said, "because you also have to go out and patrol for the other crimes that are taking place.”

Seitz’ bill is almost exactly the same bill that he sponsored in 2006, which passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Bob Taft on his way out of office. Seitz says Taft has told him he now believes that veto was a mistake.