Lawmakers meet over red light cameras

Legislative study lists 8 courses of action to improve operation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Efforts to repeal red light cameras will be on the front burner when state lawmakers begin their annual legislative session next week, and this year's effort to end the cameras has powerful friends.

A legislative study lists eight courses of actions lawmakers could take to improve red-light camera operation. The most sweeping is requiring cities and counties to use any money collected on improving traffic safety.

Florida's two most powerful lawmakers, the speaker of the house and the president of the Senate, both support ending red-light cameras, but their power has limits.

"I don't think that the votes are there to do a complete repeal," said Sen. Don Gaetz.

One of the reasons repeal is likely doomed this year is inconclusive data. A recent legislative report found there were 1,186 more crashes at red-light intersections after the cameras went up, but 18 fewer people died.

Perhaps an even bigger obstacle to repeal: The cameras produced $118 million in revenue last year, split almost evenly between the state and local governments.

"I think that there are a couple proposals that would maintain red-light cameras to save lives but eliminate red-light cameras as a way to either enrich government or enrich some out-of-state vendors," Gaetz said.

The Florida League of Cities is on the defensive, asking lawmakers to stand down.

"Red-light cameras save lives," said Casey Cook with Florida League of Cities. "We believe that they stop dangerous T-bone collisions and they make our streets safer."

Last year, lawmakers extended the time to pay the $158 fine and they created an appeal process. Cities and counties said the changes are only a few months old and need time to work.

"We haven't had enough time yet to study those changes to see if they were effective or not," Cook said.

While the ticket-producing cameras may not be doomed this year, all local governments could soon be forced to report the data.

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