Traffic law photo enforcement is still OK in Arizona.

PHOENIX — Those often-cursed photo radar cameras are here to stay, at least for the time being.

But so is texting while driving.

On a 15-13 vote Monday, the state Senate rejected legislation that would have outlawed photo enforcement of traffic laws. SB 1167 would have wiped out not just the automated speed cameras but also the cameras at intersections that catch red-light runners.

The defeat occurred despite an impassioned plea by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, who contends the devices are an unconstitutional violation of privacy rights.

“Every time we drive past one of those cameras, we are subject to an unwanted, unwarranted search of our vehicle,” she told colleagues. “When you go past the red-light cameras they do videotape you, and that information is kept and saved for whatever future purpose it might want to be used for, whether you’re breaking the law or not.”

And she complained that employees of private firms that have contracts to operate the cameras are the ones deciding whether to cite a motorist.

The question of banning texting while driving came in what could be the last gasp for that issue, at least this session.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, got unanimous approval for the ban earlier this month from the Senate Government Committee. But Senate President Andy Biggs, a foe of the ban, assigned his original legislation to not just one or two committees but a virtually unprecedented three, essentially assuring those hurdles would kill it.

It did. So Farley sought to bypass the process and tack the measure onto related legislation on motor vehicle laws up for Senate floor debate.

He was not successful.

Farley acknowledged that the Department of Public Safety has been citing texters under laws requiring motorists to drive at speeds that are “reasonable and prudent.” DPS has taken the position that no speed is prudent if someone is reading or writing a text.

But Farley said that still leaves a loophole in state law.

Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia