A Red-Light Camera Ban Is Back in Tallahassee

Last year, two Miami reps pushed a bill banning red light cameras through a committee with some loud public support (thanks in part to a Tampa TV station's investigation showing Florida had helped shorten yellow light times to collect more ticket revenue). But that bill eventually flopped in the full House.

We're still six months out from a new session starting up in Tallahassee, but a Tampa-area senator has already taken up the fight, filing a new bill this week seeking to outlaw the traffic cameras.

See also: Freedom fighter Richard Masone takes on red-light cameras in South Florida

"This program was originally sold as being about safety," Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes tells the Herald. "I have come to believe that it's now about revenue."

Brandes, who is a Republican, points out some of the stats that have led burned drivers to argue the cameras are about cash revenue and not driver safety: the cameras ginned up more than $62 million for the state last year.

Last year's House bill failed in part because one of its sponsors had some serious ethical issues. Daphne Campbell was an easy target, between a six-figure IRS tax lien, accusations of Medicare fraud by her company, and conflict-of-interest accusations when it turned out her husband had racked up five red light tickets on their minivan.

Brandes, presumably, won't have those kind of PR problems. But he will face down the legion of lobbyists hired by American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona firm banking big off the cameras.

They've already got 24 lobbyists on the payroll, the Herald reports, armed with the firm's own data that red-light runners have dropped at intersections where the cameras have been installed.

Florida will have to wait until spring's session to find out who wins this round; in the meantime, watch out for those quick yellows.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink