Legislature

Traffic camera ban stopped at red light

Stripped-down version considered too costly, committee halts it

By Vic Vela
Posted

After cruising through the Senate, the House this week put the breaks on a bill that sought to ban red light cameras and photo radar systems in Colorado.

The legislation officially met its demise during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on April 30, but the bill sponsor, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, had pretty much accepted its defeat before it even got there.

Senate Bill 14 would have prohibited local governments from using photo radar technology to capture drivers who speed or run red lights. It was gutted by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which passed a stripped-down version of the bill on April 28.

The gutted version only would have allowed for a state study of the technology's public safety effectiveness, something that Ferrandino didn't think was necessary.

"I think we have enough studies to show that it's not effective," Ferrandino told the Appropriations Committee.

Ferrandino and other bill supporters argued that photo radar technology is a cash cow used by local governments to rack up revenue, courtesy of lead-foot drivers. The House speaker also said that the technology does little to prevent accidents.

"They give a sense of public safety, but don't actually increase public safety," Ferrandino said.

But several law enforcement representatives testified otherwise during the committee process. Supporters of the technology asserted that the devices serve as a blessing for understaffed police agencies and that the presence of the cameras curbs bad habits on the part of drivers.

"If you just look at the money side and ignore the public safety side, to me the public safety side triumphs," said Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver.

The bill's gutted version called for an effectiveness study that would have been undertaken by the Colorado Department of Transportation. But House Appropriations Committee member Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, wasn't willing to fund the legislation at the possible expense of other CDOT projects.

"I'm wondering what bridge is not going to be built, what road is not going to be protected," Tyler said. "Where are they going to get the money for this, Mr. Speaker?"

The bill's last chance for survival would have allowed for it to go to a vote in the full House, where it could have been amended to its original form. But the committee rejected that motion.

Ferrandino knew there wasn't much hope for the bill, acknowledging as much to reporters the day before the hearing.

Having accepted defeat during the hearing, the House speaker - who is not accustomed to being on the losing end of a piece of legislation - drew laughter when he joked about his colleagues' lack of support.

"When did I become part of the minority?" quipped Ferrandino.