Traffic camera ban, regulation bills racing through Iowa Legislature

Senate, House subcommittees approve competing proposals

Speed enforcement cameras are seen installed on overhead sign support over northbound Interstate 380 near J Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids in March 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Speed enforcement cameras are seen installed on overhead sign support over northbound Interstate 380 near J Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids in March 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Racing to get their legislation to the governor’s desk, an Iowa Senate subcommittee Thursday joined colleagues in the House to advance bans on traffic cameras.

The three-member Senate Judiciary subcommittee signed off on a Senate Study Bill 3025 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=SSB3025&ga=87 after hearing from law enforcement and cities that supported the continued use of the speed and red light cameras as tools for traffic law enforcement and civil liberties advocates who argued the use of the cameras denies Iowans of their due process rights. The bill would void all local ordinances authorizing the use of traffic cameras as of July 1 and order their removal in eight cities and one county where they are used.

There’s a third horse in the race to get a bill to the floor, Senate File 220 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=sf220 that would regulate rather than ban the cameras. The bill, which died in the House last year, was given another chance Thursday when two members of a three-person House Transportation subcommittee signed off on it.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, kicked off his Judiciary subcommittee meeting by saying that his ban on the automated traffic enforcement devices was not as criticism of law enforcement or a green light for speeders.

“I want to be very clear, this bill is not to send a message to Iowans that it’s OK to break the law,” Zaun said. “They need to obey the traffic laws that are in place.”

That’s the point of the devices — to help public safety officers enforcement law, said Gary Grant, representing Cedar Rapids.

“This is an important tool for law enforcement,” Grant said. “As we move forward with technology, as law enforcement budgets get tighter and tighter, we need to give them force multipliers when they are out on the street. This is one tool among many law enforcement use to keep our streets safer.”

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However, as the devices are now used they deny people who receive citations their due process rights, Daniel Zeno of the ACLU of Iowa said. “Due process is always right and always required.”

The ACLU supports the ban, but Zeno said it believes it is possible to use the cameras and protect due process rights, but that’s not happening.

Sens. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, and Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, joined Zaun in signing the bill and sending it to the full Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Jake Highfill, who sponsored House Study Bill 512 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HSB512 that was approved by a House Local Government subcommittee Wednesday, attended the meeting and congratulated Zaun.

“We’re racing this to the governor’s desk,” Highfill said.

Neither House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, nor House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, indicated a preference for a ban over regulation. However, both voted for an outright ban in the past.

That tells SF 220 floor manager Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, she has some educating to do.

“I think this one does a good job of reeling in a lot of the concerns that a lot of the people supporting the (ban) are worried about,” Hinson said. “I would encourage them to take another look at this piece of legislation.

For example, it provides a petition process for local citizens to seek the removal of the devices, she said.

Hinson agreed that there is a “proven need as a public safety measure” based on the data she’s seen and said it would be a “knee-jerk reaction” to do an all-out ban.

Highfill’s ban, HSB 512, likely will be debated in the Local Government Committee Monday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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