House schedules debate on camera ban

Effort designed to protect proposal from 'funnel' deadline

A traffic camera at 1st Avenue NE and 10th Street NE in Cedar Rapids. (Matt Nelson/The Gazette)
A traffic camera at 1st Avenue NE and 10th Street NE in Cedar Rapids. (Matt Nelson/The Gazette)

Opponents of automated traffic enforcement devices apparently have gotten the green light to debate a ban on red-light cameras in the Iowa House.

House File 2214, a measure designed to ban cameras used to enforce traffic laws at busy or dangerous intersections and monitor speeds on streets and highways, was placed on Wednesday’s House debate calendar in an 11th hour effort to keep the issue from falling victim to a Friday “funnel” deadline for non-money measures to clear one legislative house and a committee of the other chamber to remain eligible for consideration this session.

“Presently, I have more than 51 votes from both parties,” said Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, floor manager of H.F. 2214. “I hope it will be debated and passed.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said the bill’s supporters “have picked up votes,” which increased the likelihood the issue will get debated.

However, Sen. Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa, a former mayor who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and who believes the decision whether to use traffic-enforcement cameras should be left up to local officials, said he was uncertain whether the issue would be considered by the Senate panel if it is able to garner the minimum of 51 House votes needed for passage.

“We’ll see what happens in the House,” said Rielly, whose committee tentatively is slated to meet on Wednesday and Thursday. “Are we going to take it up? I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. My initial, knee-jerk reaction is probably not.”

Supporters of traffic-monitoring cameras say they have dramatically reduced the number of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities and have encouraged drivers to be more conscientious about obeying the traffic laws.

Opponents argue the cameras are a “big brother” infringement on privacy rights and due process, and that the underlying motive for local officials using the devices is to raise money by issuing more traffic tickets. At a minimum, they say, traffic enforcement cameras should be subject to uniform statewide standards and fine schedules if they are allowed to operate in Iowa.

Gov. Terry Branstad has said he would sign legislation to ban traffic-monitoring devices if the split-control Legislature sent him a bill this session.

“If the General Assembly were to approve legislation banning this, I would be pleased to sign it,” Branstad said in January.

The bill slated for House debate requires that a local authority currently using an automated traffic law enforcement system shall discontinue using the system on or before the effective date of the bill. The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would take effect upon the governor’s signature.

All automated traffic law enforcement system equipment would have to be removed from Iowa highways by July 1. A local authority’s ordinance authorizing the use of automated traffic law enforcement systems would be considered void on the effective date of the bill, but notices of violations mailed or citations issued under such an ordinance would be valid and processed according to the prior law.H.F. 2214 specifies that the term “automated traffic law enforcement system” does not include a device operated in the presence of a peace officer or a device mounted on a school bus and operated in the presence of the school bus driver.