A bid to ban traffic enforcement cameras fell eight votes short in the Iowa House. Instead, the House has overwhelmingly voted to establish new state regulations for the devices used to ticket vehicles caught running red lights or speeding.
Representative Wes Breckenridge, a Newton policeman, said the cameras can be a safety tool when used appropriately.
“You take a stop light or stop sign,” Breckenridge said. “If I’ve had 12 accidents in the last six months at that location, I can tell you if I was the chief of police, I would want to put a stop light camera there.”
Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton is among those who object to the cameras. He argued they’re primarily used to generate tax revenue for local governments.
“If traffic cameras are the best thing since sliced bread, puppies and world peace, why doesn’t every town have ’em?” Kaufmann asked.
Other critics like Representative Jake Highfill of Urbandale say Iowans feel “ripped off” by traffic camera tickets.
“If the cities need more revenue, they should raise their taxes and stop abusing this,” Highfill said.
Representative Ashley Hinson of Cedar Rapids said the bill would set up a new petition process for those hoping to get a camera taken down, plus there’d be new requirements for keeping the cameras properly adjusted.
“Let’s face it — Iowans speed. They run red lights,” Hinson said. “…This is a law enforcement tool to hold people accountable and there are sensible regulations and due process built in.”
Representative Ras Smith of Waterloo said the bill also calls for a “rigorous structure” that would govern where traffic cameras may be used.
“We’ll use data as evidence in areas where we think traffic cameras are applicable,” Smith said. “…I think this is thoughtful. I think it’s well-planned-out and I think it’s great for the people of Iowa.”
Earlier this year, the Iowa Senate voted to ban traffic cameras. However, just a year ago, the Senate voted to keep the cameras, but establish new regulations. With all those variations, it’s unclear how or even whether the issue may be resolved this year.