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Red light cameras get reprieve as Brandes bill stalls


Red light cameras needed something to stop a losing streak.

They may have gotten it in a Wednesday Senate Transportation committee.

Just last week, the Tampa City Council voted against renewing the city’s contract for the cameras, despite producing more than $1.6 million in revenue. Earlier this month, St. Petersburg decided it was getting rid of its cameras by Sept. 30, even though its cameras had produced nearly $1 million in their first two years.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, thinks the cameras don’t make intersections safe and that they’re only used to raise revenue. His bill, SB 144, would make the cameras illegal.

And since he’s the chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, its passage seemed like a sure thing.

Not so fast.

After a series of amendments that would have more tightly regulated the cameras failed to pass, Brandes temporarily postponed the vote on the bill.

Here’s a nice recap by our friends at The News Service of Florida:

Two of the amendments failed on 4-4 partly line votes, with Republican Senators Greg Evers of Baker and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami absent.

One of those amendments, opposed by the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association, would have allowed motorists to employ a "rolling stop" at speeds up to 15 mph when taking a right-on-red turns if no pedestrians were in the crosswalk at camera-monitored intersections.

The committee also rejected, by a 5-3 vote, an amendment that would have required only warnings to be issued to owners of vehicles caught on camera going through traffic signals 0.5 seconds after the colors changed from yellow to red.

Groups such as the Florida League of Cities have opposed Brandes' bill and similar attempts in the House to dramatically change red-light camera programs. Those groups contend the cameras are a public safety tool. Across Florida, at least 77 county and city governments operate red-light camera programs.

Rep. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who is an outspoken critic of the cameras, changed a House bill (HB 7005) on Monday as it went successfully before the House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Previously, Artiles sought to ban new cameras from going up and wanted to reduce the fines. But the revised House bill would not go as far, calling for steps such as requiring traffic-engineering studies to justify the need for new cameras.

“I am undeterred,” Brandes said afterward. He said he’ll bring it up next week at his committee again, and hopes that the senators he expected to support it, Evers and Diaz de la Portilla, are present. But he acknowledged it was getting late in the session for the bill to be stranded at his committee for another week.

“At this juncture, it’s difficult to say where we will end up,” Brandes said.