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Attempt to lower red light camera fines shot down in Senate

Red light runners would have paid less for getting violations and had more time to pay them under SB 1342 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, but the lobbying muscle of the agencies and governments that produce revenue from the fines overturned it.

If approved, the bill would have reduced fines from $158 to $100 and given violators 90 days to respond rather than the current 30 days.

The Florida Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, however, instead approved an amendment by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. It restored the fines at $158 and the 30 day response time.

Afterward, Abruzzo said he will give up on reducing the fines, but said he will work to ensure that the revenue from fines go increasingly to cities, counties and medical facilities. Abruzzo said he’s uncomfortable with how much money from the fines goes to private vendors.

“I want to make sure the money truly goes where it should,” Abruzzo said.

Clemens’ replacement amendment was a victory for law enforcement agencies, which derive a large sum of money from the fines.

“These fines help pay for the costs associated with running the program,” said Amy Mercer, executive director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, which represents about 400 law enforcement agencies.

But the red light cameras still find themselves in the crosshairs of lawmakers from both parties.

“The evidence of how (the cameras) impact driver behavior is spotty at best,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. “It’s certainly not conclusive. We need to be honest about what this is really about...This is about vendors making money.”

Clemens and other senators, such as Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, say the cameras work and need to be supported.

“I think they do work,” Joyner said. “I think lives do get saved.”