Iowa Senate leader squelches debate on traffic cameras

Traffic cameras, Price Lab closing among topics

An effort by a dozen GOP senators to ban traffic enforcement cameras come July 1 got pulled to the side of the road by the Iowa Senate’s presiding officer.

Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said the amendment seeking to ban the devices was not relevant  to a wide-ranging measure dealing with fiscal 2013 standing appropriations, even though he conceded it was “a close call” given that the budget bill dealt with a significant number of funding areas.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, offered the traffic camera ban the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

“This has got to be shut down,” Zaun argued, in supporting a proposal that previously passed the Iowa House but was not debated in the Senate.

Zaun argued that the cameras have become more about revenue than public safety for local governments that contract – mostly with out-of-state companies – to install cameras to enforce speeding or red-light violations. He pointed to an arrangement in the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, where officials plan to install cameras along a segment of Interstate 235 that traversed eight-tenths of a mile within their jurisdiction at an initial cost of $800,000. He noted that the camera installer/operator will receive 58 percent of the $5.1 million projected to be raised during the first year of enforcement.

“This issue has grown out of control,” Zaun said. “It just becomes a racket for these communities.”

Similarly, Kibbie applied his “non-germane” rulings to other proposed amendments that would have attempted to attach “stand your ground” self-defense protection, school start date changes, and authorization for home-schooling parents to teach their kids driver’s education to the “standings” bill – often called a “Christmas tree” measure because it becomes a catch-all for issues that were not included in other budget bills.

“I don’t blame anybody for offering amendments on a bill that’s the last train out of town, and I hope this is the last train out of town,” Kibbie said in giving his reasoning for disallowing the policy proposals from being debated on the Senate floor.

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