Appropriations Committee Sends Red Light Camera Repeal to House Floor
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The House Appropriations Committee forwarded a measure Wednesday to repeal a law passed last year authorizing more communities to set up red light cameras to report traffic violators. The measure now goes to the House floor for a full vote.
The committee heard from Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, who sponsored the repeal measure.
“This isn’t exactly what we thought it would be,” said Corcoran, who pointed to studies done in communities in other states of intersections with red light cameras that showed they posed a safety hazard. “Those intersections become more unsafe.”
Democrats on the committee went after Corcoran’s proposal. Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, rapped Corcoran for ignoring evidence from Florida -- namely Fort Lauderdale which, he maintained, shows the cameras were increasing public safety. House Minority Leader Ron Saunders of Key West asked Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, chairwoman of the committee, if the budget is relying on the $86 million the cameras brought in.
But Republicans on the committee also expressed doubt about repealing the law they backed last year.
“Our sheriffs tell us these red light cameras save lives,” said Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City. “Everything … shows they save lives in those intersections.”
Members of the public -- including uniformed police officers, relatives of loved ones lost when drivers ran red lights, and local officials -- spoke mostly in opposition to Corcoran’s repeal bill.
The House members debated the measure, with legislators in Corcoran’s corner expressing reservations on the repeal measure, but also the law they backed in 2010.
“I don’t regard this as a finance issue, I think it’s more important than that,” said Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, who said he would vote the measure at the committee meeting but remained undecided if he would vote for it on final passage. “Nobody has a right to run a red light.” Proctor said he would gather more evidence before the bill reached the House floor.
“The statistics are all over the place,” said Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who, like Proctor, voted to move the bill forward but would not commit to voting for the measure on final passage.
But the other participants in debate were much firmer in their opposition against the repeal measure.
Republicans, including Glorioso, Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater and Rep. Matt Hudson of Naples, spoke in opposition to Corcoran’s repeal bill, arguing that the current law saved lives and was not an unreasonable encroachment of freedom.
“Government’s role is to protect the lives of its citizenry,” insisted Hooper, comparing the red light cameras to school zones and seat belt laws.
Democrats on the committee, including Sands, Leader Pro Tempore Joe Gibbons, D-Pembroke Park, and Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, also spoke out against Corcoran’s repeal law.
“The good outweighs the bad,” argued Gibbons. “You’re saving lives and that outweighs everything.”
“It’s been an emotional and spiritual debate,” said Corcoran in conclusion.
“The data are clear,” he insisted. “The overwhelming body of evidence is that intersections have become more unsafe.”
The repeal measure now heads to the House floor.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.