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Apr 12, 2010 6:25 PM by Melissa Canone

Ban On Red Light Cameras Failed

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A ban on the cameras that take photos of
speeders and drivers who run red lights failed to win support
Monday in a House committee that stalled the proposal for a second
year.
Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, said the cameras in Baton
Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans and other municipalities around the
state are used to generate dollars for towns and cities, not to
improve safety.
He told the House Transportation Committee the cameras can
increase rear-end collisions by people slamming on their brakes to
stop at a light, rather than run the risk of getting a ticket. He
also said the cameras are unpopular and the tickets are tough to
fight, even if they were improperly issued.
But Arnold ran into hefty opposition from local government
leaders and police officials who say the cameras enhance safety,
crack down on violations and improve driver behavior - and whose
budgets get the dollars generated by the fines.
The House Transportation Committee sided with opponents and
voted 10-6 against Arnold's bill.
"The red light camera program saves lives. It puts more
officers on the street," said East Baton Rouge Parish
Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Holden disputed claims that cities have used the cameras solely
to boost their budgets. He said since the red light cameras began
recording violations two years ago, the dollars have been earmarked
only for public safety, not for general operating expenses. Nearly
35,000 citations were issued in Baton Rouge last year, generating
$1.9 million net revenue for city-parish public safety, he said.
Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Scott, said he's gotten two tickets from
the cameras in Lafayette, and he said he's changed his behavior
because of them.
"I can assure you it's a very positive change on the driving
habits," he said.
Monday's vote won't end Arnold's fight against the cameras. He's
got other proposals pending for the legislative session that target
the traffic enforcement tool, including a bill that would prohibit
cities and parishes from issuing traffic citations based on photo
enforcement unless local voters have approved the cameras' use.
Tickets from the cameras around Louisiana range from $95 to more
than $200, depending on the location and the type of violation.
States around the nation have had similar debates about whether
to ban the cameras. More than 400 communities use red light cameras
across the United States, while more than 40 towns and
municipalities use cameras to enforce speed laws, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
At least eight states prohibit the use of photo enforcement for
traffic laws, including Arkansas and Mississippi, according to
NCSL.
Voting against Arnold's bill were Montoucet and Reps. Elton
Aubert, D-Vacherie; Robert Billiot, D-Westwego; Herbert Dixon,
D-Alexandria; Jean Doerge, D-Minden; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles;
Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek; Frank Howard, R-Many; Sam Little,
R-Bastrop; and Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.
Voting for the bill were Reps. Henry Burns, R-Haughton; Jerry
"Truck" Gisclair, D-Larose; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings; Sam Jones,
D-Franklin; Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs; and Karen St. Germain,
D-Plaquemine.

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