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Use of cameras to catch red-light runners inches closer to approval in Florida House vote

TALLAHASSEE — A bill approving the use of surveillance cameras targeting red-light runners moved closer to final approval after it was green-lighted in the House on Monday.

The proposal by Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, passed 101-7. It would allow cities and counties to place the cameras on state-owned property and would set up statewide fines and rules for their use.

About 30 Florida governments have agreed to use the devices to ticket by remote control. But state law bars the placement of the cameras on state-owned property, so municipalities have steered around the ban by placing them on locally owned property or on private land.

A similar proposal is expected for a vote in the Senate this week.

Privacy concerns have stalled perennial efforts to lift the state's red-light camera prohibition. But supporters say the proliferation of the devices has propelled the need for uniform camera rules.

Another selling point: money. Both the Senate and the House proposals funnel a portion of the $150 fine into the state's general revenue pot. Another chunk of the money goes into a Department of Health trust fund for use by Florida trauma centers, public hospitals and Medicaid-eligible nursing homes that serve victims of traumatic brain injuries.

Under both proposals, local governments would get 60 percent of the money if the cameras are on a city or county road.

But with the Senate plan, if the devices are watching a state road, local governments wouldn't get any money.

Sen. Thad Altman, the bill's Senate sponsor, said last week that the Senate is still working out some of the details of the proposal.

More than 110 municipalities in 20 states have cameras focused on red light runners, and in cities like Pembroke Pines, where the cameras are already rolling, they've been used to spot hundreds of violators.

Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis said he is happy the bill appears to be on the verge of passing but said he does not support provisions that would deny municipalities revenue from tickets issued within their borders.

Breanne Gilpatrick can be reached at bgilpatrick@miamiherald.com

Use of cameras to catch red-light runners inches closer to approval in Florida House vote 04/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 7:30pm]
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