Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill that would get rid of red light cameras in the state was temporarily postponed in the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee on Tuesday.
The delay all but ensures the measure is dead — again — after several years’ worth of attempts to kill the program.
Brandes voluntarily postponed the bill in the final minutes of the committee meeting because of time constraints but not before calling red light cameras “tools of the devil to tax poor people.”
This year’s bill (SB 622) would overturn the “Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program” law that was approved in 2010. It gives localities across the state the option to use red light cameras within their boundaries.
The city of St. Petersburg canceled its program in 2014 after massive public outcry, mostly stemming from motorists who were ticketed for turning right on red.
Conversely, Tampa voted last week to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for another five years to continue its program, which has red light cameras at more than 50 intersections throughout the city.
ATS retains a horde of lobbyists to bat down repeated attempts to squash red light cameras, including from the powerhouse firm Ballard Partners. The Arizona-based company is the largest provider of red light cameras in the state and nation.
Brandes sponsored a similar bill last year that died in its first committee. A similar bill in the House is also now stalled.
Even with the seemingly impossible task of gaining traction in the Senate, time is running out for this year’s efforts. The Infrastructure and Security Committee is the bill’s first committee stop.
Red light cameras have long been a political football for politicians.
Critics argue they actually cause more crashes as rear-end collisions go up as a result of motorists either hitting the brakes to avoid running a light or speed up to make it.
Supporters say it’s a safety measure that saves lives by reducing crashes resulting from red-light runners.
The issue has been a top priority in the Tampa mayoral race. Candidate David Straz opposes the program and says he would cancel it. His opponent, former Police Chief Jane Castor, supports the cameras.