August 23, 2014

Traffic cam ban passes House committee (audio)

A bid to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa cleared a House committee late Wednesday afternoon, but its future is uncertain.

Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls, says he’s heard from countless Iowans who want the cameras outlawed. “This is an area that’s going into their due process, civil liberty rights,” Rogers said.

The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee on a 14-11 vote. Rogers expects the bill to be debated in the 100-member House sometime next week.

AUDIO of committee discussion of bill.

Representative Andrew Wenthe, a Democrat from West Union, warned that even if the bill passes the full House, the proposal is dead on arrival in the state senate. “An all-out ban has virtually no chance of passing,” Wenthe said.

Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, suggested traffic cameras in his city have reduced the number of accidents. “The red light and speed cameras save lives,” Olson said.

But Representative Nick Wagner, a Republican from Marion, disagreed with the idea that speed is a major cause of accidents on Interstate-380 in Cedar Rapids/Marion  “What I found is precipitation played a bigger role in accidents than anything else,” Wagner said.

Representative Rogers, the main sponsor of the bill, said while there’s “very conflicting” data about traffic cameras, there’s a more important reason to ban them.”We’ve gone from a traditional, appropriate way of issuing tickets for years where there’s an officer in the field, to now we’re going to issue a ticket via a camera,” Rogers said, “and I believe that Iowans think that is wrong.”

The traffic camera ban passed the House committee with the support of 14 Republicans. Nine Democrats and two Republicans on the committee voted against the ban. Last week, the bill faced sudden death because it failed to win approval in the House before a legislative deadline, but the speaker of the House used his authority to send the bill to the Appropriations Committee. Bills in that committee are not subject to any deadline and can be debated at any time.