Two bills targeting the state’s photo enforcement system advanced on a partisan vote after an exhaustive committee hearing in the House on Jan. 21.
The measures still have a long way to go, but the vote in committee indicated a strong desire by some lawmakers to get rid of speed cameras on the state’s highways.
The bills passed, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing them in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
One bill, Rep. Lucy Mason’s H2085, would require a citation or notice of violation from the photo enforcement system to be issued by a law enforcement officer at the time of the violation.
The bill doesn’t directly repeal the photo enforcement statutes, but by requiring that a law enforcer issue the ticket, the bill effectively guts photo enforcement.
Mason also made no qualms about letting her intentions known. She wants to take photo radar out of the picture, she said.
“What I’m doing is putting it back to the way it was before we had photo cameras,” Mason earlier told the Arizona Capitol Times.
The second, H2213 introduced by House Transportation chairman Rep. Andy Biggs, would prohibit a public agency of the state, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, from entering into a new or renewing an existing photo enforcement contract unless the contract is approved by the Legislature.
As expected, arguments during the committee hearing ranged from speed cameras’ public safety benefits to questions about their constitutionality to due process concerns to how the entire system operates.
“It’s been called a tool. This type of tool is abusive of human rights and civil rights,” Biggs said. “We’ve talked about that and I think therefore it becomes incumbent on us to reject intrusions on civil rights like that.”
Rep. Sam Crump, a Republican from Anthem, said he finds photo cameras a “rather oppressive use of technology” by the government, which he said doesn’t happen when an officer is the one who is pulling over a driver.
He added that the government engages in trickery and abuse of authority by sending notices to people asking if they are the person pictured, and if not, to say who it is.
But Rep. Steve Farley, a Democrat from Tucson, argued that driving is a privilege.
He said someone who ignores speed limits and drives 11 mph faster than what’s posted is not only making a choice to endanger his or her life but also those of others in the highway.
Lawmakers shouldn’t go out of their way to protect such drivers, he said.
“I believe as representatives in Arizona, part of our duties are to preserve the lives of our citizens. This is a tool that we have used, which I believe has been doing just that,” he added.
Rep. Eric Meyer, a Democrat from Paradise Valley, said for him it’s an issue of public safety. He said numbers have suggested that fatalities on the roads have decreased.
“There are significant decreases, potentially hundreds of lives are being saved,” he said.