Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida House approves red light cameras, has designs on the fines

Red light cameras like this one at Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon can be lucrative.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times (2009)

Red light cameras like this one at Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon can be lucrative.

TALLAHASSEE — The legislative debate Friday about red light cameras pitted public safety against an Orwellian nightmare.

But in the end, Florida is poised to expand the use of the controversial monitoring devices for one reason: money.

The legislation won approval in the House and is expected to pass the Senate next week. It lets localities install cameras at intersections and charges a $158 civil fine to motorists who run a red light.

With a $3.2 billion deficit, lawmakers made sure the state would get a good chunk of the money.

State budget writers are already crafting plans to spend the first year's $39 million and expect another $122 million next year.

"This is nothing more than a revenue grab on the citizens that we represent," said state Rep. Rob Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican, who led the opposition in debate.

The sponsor, Speaker Pro Tem Ron Reagan, named his legislation after Mark Wandall, who died in a wreck caused by a red light runner. The Bradenton Republican labeled the issue a public safety matter, even though research is inconclusive as to whether it reduces wrecks and saves lives.

For the past five years, the issue failed to make it this far. But the questionable legality of the cameras pushed it to the forefront.

A Miami-Dade judge in February declared Aventura's red light cameras illegal, leaving the status of similar efforts in 50 other Florida localities in doubt.

The 77-33 vote — with unilateral Democratic support — also helped end an internal squabble among House Republican lawmakers who were divided about the philosophical implications.

Schenck, who sponsored a competing bill that banned local red light cameras, prodded his fellow conservatives to vote against the legislation if they believe in "less government and more freedom."

"If you vote for this today, you'll never ever be able to say that phrase again," he said. "This is the biggest intrusion of government into our lives."

Rep. Kevin Ambler, a Tampa Republican, disagreed. "This bill saves lives by creating a 24/7 sentinel to watch our intersections," he said. "They help change bad behavior without the expenditure of limited law enforcement resources."

St. Petersburg and Oldsmar have agreed to install them. Kenneth City, South Pasadena, Temple Terrace, Hillsborough County, Port Richey and Brooksville already have them.

The measure makes it a civil infraction that wouldn't put points on driving records and doesn't factor into auto insurance rates, much in the same fashion as a parking ticket.

It also prohibits cameras from issuing tickets for rolling right turns at red lights if done in a "careful and prudent manner" — thus incidentally condoning illegal behavior.

For those caught by a police officer, running a red light remains a moving violation, and the legislation increases the fine from the current $125 to $158.

The fine doesn't include additional court costs of up to $98.

On city and county roads, the state gets $70 and the local government gets $75, with another $10 going to trauma centers.

The fine increased in a late amendment to give an additional $3 per ticket to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Tickets from cameras on state roads send the state $100 and gives localities $45, with the medical distributions remaining the same.

Florida House approves red light cameras, has designs on the fines 04/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended


    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Workers from the Advanced Granite Solutions in Maryland console each other Wednesday after a shooting there killed three people. Officers said the attacker fled and also shot a man in Delaware.    as police and Emergency Medical Services respond to a shooting at a business park in the Edgewood area of Harford County, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.  A gunman opened fire at the office park killing several co-workers and wounded others, authorities said.  (Matt Button/The Baltimore Sun via AP) MDBAE105
  2. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  3. The two Ricks tangle at what may be final debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — In what was likely the last mayoral forum before the Nov. 7 election, Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker started out small, discussing neighborhood issues like recycling and neighborhood funding. They ended tangling over familiar subjects: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage …

    Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, debated familiar topics. The Times’ Adam Smith moderated.
  4. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners


    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  5. UF president Kent Fuchs: 'Charlottesville changed everything' (w/video)


    GAINESVILLE — Wednesday evening, hazy rumors of an impending Neo-Nazi march reached some wary protesters. A few quickly rallied to denounce the marchers in downtown Gainesville, only to find plazas empty but for police.

    University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs talks with reporters Wednesday about white nationalist Richard Spencer's planned speech on Thursday. He said of Spencer: "In a small way, he is causing us to redouble our focus on supporting actions that are the opposite of what he wants." [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]