A traffic camera in Des Moines.

There’s a race in the Iowa Senate to determine the future of traffic enforcement cameras and it’s not clear which side will win.

One bill under consideration in a senate committee would ban the cameras. The other bill cleared the Senate Transportation Committee Wednesday and it would keep the cameras, but fines would be slashed and the DOT would have to approve the placement of all the cameras.

Senator Dan Zumbach of Ryan said the cameras are making some Iowa roadways safer. “A place for people to drive without being fearful,” Zumbach said during committee discussion.

Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa is also lining up on the side of keeping the cameras operating.

“I think it’s a way, in certain situations, that we can minimize fatalities and accidents,” Bowman said during the Senate Transportation Committee meeting.

The bill that allows the cameras to continue policing the roads would redirect the money from the fines to road projects. Senator Tony Bisignano of Des Moines supports keeping the cameras, but he argued the money from the fines should be used to support the police.

“We’re telling ’em where they can put their cameras and then we’re telling how they can spend their money,” Bisignano said. “Why don’t we just do a bill and get rid of city councils?”

Senator Jim Lykam of Davenport, another member of the committee, offered this message to people who complain about tickets generated by a traffic camera: “If you don’t speed and you don’t run a red light, it doesn’t take your picture.”

Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls was the only member of the Senate Transportation Committee who voted against the bill that would keep traffic cameras operating, but with some new restrictions. He warned putting the Iowa DOT in charge of where the permanent and mobile cameras can be positioned means all the complaints about tickets will filter up to legislators.

“I think this potentially could turn into a political nightmare for us,” Danielson said, “…but also a bureaucratic nightmare in trying to sort through all those applications and the process it would take.”

Over the past few years, Iowa legislators have passed bills that have called for limits on traffic camera fines, plus bills that would ban the cameras altogether, but none of those proposals got enough support to clear both the House and Senate in the same year.