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A new law that protects South Dakotans from Iowa traffic camera tickets is raising the ire of law enforcement officials in Sioux City and questions in Des Moines.
Last week, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law House Bill 1122, essentially giving his citizens the ability to breeze by automated traffic cameras with impunity.
“We occasionally talk about policy diffusion in politics, where one state does something, so it gets copied by other states,” said Christopher Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. “This sounds like policy diffusion in reverse. Not only are you not adopting, you're preventing that state from enforcing its own policy.”
South Dakota banned traffic cameras this year. It's something several members of the Iowa Legislature have tried to do since 2011 without success.
The Iowa Department of Transportation offered some help to folks opposed to the cameras this year by adopting rules that limit where cities can place them. They promptly were sued by Sioux City, which, like the Iowa cities of Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Clive, among others, uses unmanned speed cameras for enforcement.
Sioux City is also connected to the new South Dakota law.
Not only does the northwestern Iowa community share a border with South Dakota, but the chief South Dakota Senate sponsor of the bill was Sen. Dan Lederman, who works for a Sioux City-based law firm and whose family business, Lederman Bail Bonds, has offices in Sioux City and other Iowa towns.
“It's a slap in the face of interstate cooperation between law enforcement agencies,” Sioux City Police Chief Doug Young said. “Whether they agree with it or not, it is Iowa law.”
Young was not sure how many South Dakota vehicles have been nabbed by Sioux City cameras, but he said that of 13 million vehicles checked since the cameras went up, less than 1 percent were ticketed.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is also a Republican, took a hands-off approach.
“The governor believes Gov. Daugaard is best suited to make a determination on matters involving South Dakotans,” Branstad said through spokesman Jimmy Centers.
Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said the law “creates a problem and a conflict in public policy” for the state.
He said states reciprocate in a variety of ways: information sharing, tuition breaks at state schools and resource management along the Missouri River, to name a few.
“It could lead to a war of reciprocity,” he added.
Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, the chairman of the Iowa House Transportation Committee, said that's a slippery slope.
“It creates a really interesting situation for those of us who are border legislators,” he added. “How far do we want to go down this road? Could we pass a law that Illinois can't collect tolls in Iowa? So if I'm an Iowan driving in Illinois, I can just blow through all the tolls as long as I make it to the state line?”
Asked whether the Iowa Legislature might consider a law giving Iowa drivers protection from other states, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he is not interested in picking up the topic in the waning days of this legislative session.
“That's something for the 86th General Assembly to decide,” he said.