Twelve years after first broaching the subject, the Texas legislature has finally killed red light cameras. This follows years of fraud, corruption, and contractual language negating prior ban attempts. The Newspaper reports on the good news, which unfortunately comes with some bad news. The supermajority vote means the bill can’t be vetoed by the governor, but some cities have managed to grandfather in their resident-screwing cameras.
The majority of red light camera programs in the Lone Star State will be shut down under legislation that cleared the Texas legislature on Friday. By a vote of 23 to 8, the state Senate approved the partial ban on automated ticketing that had sailed through the House with a vote of 109 to 34. Because it passed with supermajority support, the bill becomes law upon being signed by Governor Greg Abbott (R), who made getting rid of cameras part of his campaign platform.
Most, but not all, of 37 cities running red light cameras would lose the ability to approve $75 photo citations issued by private, for-profit companies. Cities that have clauses that allow for early termination of their photo ticketing contract in the event of adverse state legislation must pull the plug immediately. Cities that struck the escape clause in anticipation of the legislature’s move can continue using the cameras until the contract expires — many of the deals have been extended for twenty years or more.
Arlington is one the cities that has decided to screw its residents porn-style, going at them from multiple angles.
When the bill passed, city legislators unanimously voted to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions from five years to twenty years. This move will give residents less protection from traffic cams’ perverse incentives than residents living elsewhere in the state. It also means they’ll be paying more tax dollars for this dubious privilege, as there will be no reason for ATS to maintain competitive pricing for the next couple of decades. Nor will it feel any pressure to improve its tech, which has performed poorly enough to result in millions of dollars of refunds.
The good news is these cities will have to deal with the state Attorney General if they want to continue utilizing traffic enforcement measures the state has banned. Tickets from red light cameras in the cities that opted for extended revenue generation rather than compliance with the law are going to have a hard time collecting on unpaid tickets. The law prohibits the DMV from blocking vehicle registrations and license renewals for unpaid tickets. The problem is drivers may not be aware of the ban and will continue to pay fines when they’re not legally required to.
Cities that have opted for further resident-screwing will face increased activism efforts that will fill the gaps in the Attorney General’s enforcement.
Jurisdictions that attempt to defy the legislature will have to take on state attorney general Ken Paxton, who is tasked by the bill with enforcing the shutdown. Byron Schirmbeck, state coordinator for Texas Campaign for Liberty, says his group will also hold cities to account.
“Fortunately the remaining camera sanctuary cities will no longer be able to block registrations for unpaid tickets making them completely optional,” Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. “The cities that do have to shut down their programs are also not allowed to pursue outstanding tickets and all existing registration holds will be removed. We will consider petition efforts and an increased trash your ticket campaign to go after those that choose to operate camera programs after the ban.”
While it’s always tough to watch a revenue stream dry up, the fact is traffic cameras do little more than generate unearned revenue. They don’t make drivers safer or encourage better driving. But that was never the goal. Revenue generation was the endgame. Fortunately for most Texans, the state has realized this money is no longer worth pursuing.