Traffic cameras

Traffic camera bill clears Iowa House subcommittee

2013-02-12T22:48:00Z Traffic camera bill clears Iowa House subcommitteeMike Wiser Muscatine Journal
February 12, 2013 10:48 pm  • 
DES MOINES — Iowa cities that use speed and red-light cameras for traffic enforcement would have to put that revenue to the state’s road fund under a bill approved by a House subcommittee late Tuesday.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, is one of a handful of bills introduced this year that attempts to place restrictions on traffic cameras. But it’s only one of two that has a companion bill in the Senate, which may give it a better chance of passage.
“My gut is the road use tax fund is going to have a tough road ahead,” Rogers said. “But I want to get something done this year.”
Rogers is a vocal critic of traffic cameras, seeing them as an affront to personal liberty. He sponsored legislation to ban the cameras last year, and Gov. Terry Branstad said he would support that, but the bills did not made it through the Iowa Senate.
Speed and red-light cameras are in several communities in Iowa, including Davenport, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Clive and Ankeny.
Cities say they help keep roads safe and free up officers for duties other than running radar. Cities also benefit from the money collected, a fact legislators hit on during Tuesday’s subcommittee.
“Let’s be honest here, it’s also about some cities that are cash-strapped, and they use the revenue,” said Rep. Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque.
“Yes, there’s a financial component,” responded Clive Police Chief Michael Venema, who lobbied against the bill in subcommittee. “There’s also a financial component in the traditional citation process.”
Venema, who worked in the Davenport Police Department for 26 years before being appointed chief in Clive in 2012, said the municipalities would likely continue to use the cameras for public safety even if they couldn’t use the revenue in their budgets.
As written, the legislation allows cities to pay off their contractual obligations with the camera vendors and associated costs of running the programs, but they would have to turn the remaining money over to the state road fund.
It was not immediately clear how much money that would mean for the road fund, which, according to state Department of Transportation officials, is running a $215 million backlog in critical road repairs. Rogers and Murphy asked legislative staff to come up with a figure.
Reached earlier Tuesday, Sioux City Budget and Financial Manager Donna Forker said the city took in $1.6 million in the past fiscal year from its two speed cameras. It also took in $944,000 from its 11 red-light cameras.
But in February, it dropped fines from $200 to $100 for red-light violations, as a result, the city budgeted $415,000 in revenue from red-light cameras for this fiscal year, she said.
“Don’t think that I’m trying to stick it to you,” Rogers told Venema and the handful of other police officials and municipal lobbyists who attended Tuesday’s subcommittee. “I applaud the work you do. I just think that a lot of Iowans still have questions about these cameras.”



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