Iowa House passes traffic camera ban

Legislation passes on mostly party lines; bill unlikely to be debated in Senate

DES MOINES  — The Iowa House voted Tuesday to ban red light cameras on a 58-42 vote that broke largely — but not completely — along party lines.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where there seems to be little chance that it will make it to the floor for a vote.

The legislation took a long route to Tuesday’s vote. A camera ban had momentum at the start of the session, including tentative support from the governor and one legislator offering a constitutional amendment to ban the devices in the state. But as the session wore on, support dissipated and the bill was considered dead, until House leadership stepped in and revived it.

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, the floor manager of the bill, said he has spoken with several people as he worked on the legislation over the last few months and a common thread to all those conversations was a single word.

“That word was ‘hate.’ ‘Hate’ in the sense that people hate these things,” Rogers said. He said the safety data from the cameras was “conflicting at best; at worst, it’s misleading.”

The Republican majority stopped several amendments to the bill.

Red light and/or speed cameras are placed in several cities in the state, including Davenport, Muscatine, Sioux City, Ankeny, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Other communities, such as Cedar Falls and Waterloo, have had presentations from companies that sell the cameras but have not installed the devices.

Several Democrats pushed for something less than an outright ban.

“We’re taking the position that we don’t like the technology, we’re doing away with the whole thing?” asked Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton.

Jeremy Taylor, R-Sioux City, said technology wasn’t the issue as much as what cities did with that technology once they have it.

“I come from Sioux City where traffic camera (violations) once cost $195,” he said. “I think your average, common-sense person would like to see some sort of fair play.”

Others argued the safety angle. Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said statistics gathered from Genesis Health System in her city showed a 42 percent decrease in accidents in intersections where cameras were installed. Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, read statistics off a letter that he said was from the police chief. The letter credited the cameras with reducing fatal accidents in the city.

Rogers said there could be other reasons for the reductions in accidents, such as precipitation or poorly engineered roads.

The final tally saw some Democrats join the majority Republicans in voting for the ban and some Republicans joining Democrats in voting against.Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, encouraged Democrats to vote for the ban because he felt the cameras intruded on civil liberties.

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