PHOENIX — Ongoing legislative discomfort with photo radar has again spawned a number of bills aimed at crimping the use of such automated ticket generators.
Although former Gov. Jan Brewer shut down the state’s speed cameras in 2010, after a two-year run, many local governments have continued to use red light and speed cameras despite legislative efforts to block or restrict them.
A bill approved by a House panel Tuesday would let drivers ignore photo radar citations without fear of losing their license — although they could still be found guilty and fined.
Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said his goal is not to undermine photo enforcement of laws on speeding and red lights, and his HB 2221 eliminates the possibility a judge might find a driver who does not show up in court guilty.
But he said having the state take away a license is something else.
The other bills, however, make much more direct hits on photo radar usage.
Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, wants to end the practice where citations are issued pretty much automatically — often by an outside vendor — after a camera catches a motorist exceeding the speed limit or running a red light.
HB 2564 would allow a ticket to be issued only if the photo enforcement system “is manned, operated and monitored by a uniformed law enforcement officer” who works for the city, town or county.
Simply having a police officer review citations before they are sent out, as some governments now do, wouldn’t qualify.
Thorpe said it’s only right that someone with expertise and discretion decides whether to cite a motorist, just as if there were a live officer at the scene.
“I would want them, sitting at a monitor at a remote location, giving that same level of discretion to determining whether someone’s actually broken the law or not.”
Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, wants to go even farther. SB 1167 would block local communities from using photo enforcement entirely.
Ward also said traffic enforcement should be “in the hands of trained law enforcement officers.”
But she also wants to “protect the citizens of this state from the abuses that accompany the outsourcing of law enforcement to private, for-profit entities,” and said that the purpose of issuing citations is public safety and not revenue generation.
Ward’s measure is set for debate Wednesday morning before a Senate panel.
Mesnard said his bill stems from an incident involving a constituent who says he never knew he had been captured on a photo radar camera.
Mesnard said a process server claims to have served papers on the driver, a contention the person disputes.
What the motorist eventually got was a note in the mail from the Motor Vehicle Division informing him his license had been suspended for ignoring the citation.
He said his proposed change has nothing to do with how people feel about photo enforcement, but rather, that they “should not be in a situation where in a sense you are presumed guilty” without a chance to go to court and prove they are not.