A bill originally aimed at repealing the state’s red light camera program has been watered down to allow the cameras, though with certain restrictions and requirements.
But that bill couldn’t even get voted out of its own sponsor’s Senate committee Wednesday, as multiple amendments failed that would have put teeth back in the bill.
One of those amendments would have legalized what’s known as a “California stop” during a right-on-red turn--that is, slowing down but not stopping.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, threw the measure (SB 144) a lifeline about a minute before the Transportation committee meeting was to end, moving to “temporarily postpone” the bill.
“I think we need to step back and take a fresh look at it,” Clemens said after the meeting.
Bill sponsor Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said the bill will return next week. He chairs the committee.
The bill now requires a traffic engineering study that supports a need for a red light camera before a new one can be installed.
It also requires cities and counties to file an annual report on their cameras’ effectiveness, and if the report is late, any tickets issued during that time are nullified.
A House companion bill is similarly softened away from a repeal.
Asked if he were still in favor of a full repeal, Brandes said: “After today? More than ever.” He has called the cameras a back-door tax increase.
Brandes laid the blame for the bill’s poor showing on lobbying by the various red light camera vendors.
“What happened today shows you the power of this industry,” he said.
First, Brandes’ amendment to essentially legalize a “rolling stop” during a right-on-red failed on a 4-4 vote.
Another amendment that would have given drivers a half-second grace period if caught by a camera running a red light died 5-3.
Yet another amendment that would have required red light camera revenue to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian safety measures failed on a voice vote.
The Florida League of Cities and police groups continued to support the cameras. Critics called them “automated for-profit law enforcement.”