DES MOINES — Legislation to prohibit traffic enforcement cameras got a yellow light Wednesday as a House subcommittee advanced the bill, but members indicated they anticipate regulating the devices rather than banning them.
Although he has concerns about cameras, Public Safety Committee Chairman Jarad Klein, R-Keota, conceded they may serve the public interest so he’s willing to look for middle ground — something less than an outright ban, but more than the largely unregulated use of cameras to catch motorists who speed and run red lights.
“There are some of these cameras that are definitely useful for safety,” Klein said during a hearing on House Study Bill 125. “But I also think there are a lot of them out there that are being used as a revenue-generating source.”
Speakers told the subcommittee revenue is being used to hire police officers, pay for cities to upgrade equipment — such as radios that can be a part of a statewide communication system — and other public safety priorities.
While it remains to be seen how Klein will modify his bill, lobbyists for Iowa cities with cameras and the companies that supply them encouraged legislators to establish a regulatory framework rather than a ban.
Scott Weiser, a lobbyist for Redflex Traffic Systems, encouraged the subcommittee to regulate the cameras. House Study Bill 36, sponsored by Transportation Committee Chairwoman Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, addresses due process concerns some people had regarding enforcement.
Iowa courts have addressed some concerns, but Pete McRoberts of ACLU of Iowa, which is calling for a total ban, said legislators represent “all the people, so your scope is much broader.”
He said the Department of Revenue is being used to withhold tax returns to pay for camera-generated citations. That’s an abuse of power, not public safety, he said.
But in some areas, such as the S-curve on Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids, “it’s simply too dangerous for motorists and officers to run traditional traffic enforcement,” the city’s lobbyist, Gary Grant, said.
David Adelman of the Metropolitan Coalition, which represents large cities, also called for moving in the direction of Hinson’s bill. Cities support allowing cameras in school zones, construction zones and other high-risk areas, and requiring signs between 500 and 1,000 feet before each camera to alert motorists.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, plans to move ahead with his bill to ban the devices. His push for a total ban stalled last year.
Another bill proposing a total ban, HF 253 by Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, has been assigned to Hinson’s Transportation Committee. No subcommittee has been assigned.