Bills to ban red light cameras raise questions at the Capitol

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Nearly 60 cities in Texas use cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights. But the battle to ban those cameras is heating up at the state Capitol.

The House Transportation Committee met Tuesday to consider House Bill 1631. The bill filed by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) would force cities to stop using those cameras to ticket drivers.

Rep. Stickland argued that the cameras are unconstitutional. His bill to ban them has significant support in the Texas House.  More than 100 lawmakers have signed on in support.

“We’ve got from all walks of life, left, right, center,” Stickland said.  “Everyone’s involved and that’s because the overwhelming voice of the people want these things gone.”

Several police officers from cities that use red light cameras showed up at the hearing to try to convince lawmakers not to approve the ban. They argue that the camera make intersections safer by stopping people from running red lights.

“If you don’t want the red light cameras it’s pretty simple: stop running the red lights we’ll take them out,” explained Chief Joe Salvaggio, who leads the Leon Valley Police Department near San Antonio.

But many cities using the cameras in Texas may not be operating them legally. Our investigation found that only three of 60 cities performed an engineering study required before using cameras to ticket drivers.

That hasn’t stopped a single city from demanding drivers pay fines.  And those fines add up to big money. Last year, Leon Valley collected $1.6 million dollars from red light cameras.  The money came in even though the city has no power to make people caught on camera pay the fines.

“Most Texans know that when they’ve done wrong, they atone for that, and they’re not doing to do it again,” Chief Salvaggio said.

Rep. Stickland’s bill is still pending in committee. A similar bill is also pending in the Senate. Neither bill is listed on the agenda for committee hearings next week. 

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