Ohio House representatives voted to ban red-light cameras, such as this one in Toledo.
COLUMBUS—The Ohio House today voted 64-32 across partisan, urban, rural, and suburban lines to all but kill traffic enforcement cameras in Toledo and other communities across the state.
The sole exception would be mobile speed cameras to enforce 20-mph school zones during restricted hours, but even then the cameras would have to come with police back-up.
Those holding camera-generated tickets received by mail, however, shouldn’t think just yet about throwing them away. The Senate will leave for the recess for the summer as soon as Thursday without taking up House Bill 69, putting the debate on hold until fall at the earliest.
Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont) urged his colleagues without success not to cast what he characterized as a vote against public safety and in favor of local tax increases.
“These lawbreakers are paying, and they’re paying big bucks for breaking the law,” he said. “The city of Toledo, Mayor (Mike) Bell came in and told how important this is to the city of Toledo — not just for public safety.
“They make about $4 million a year,” he said. “If we vote for this bill, we are going to be voting for tax increases for Toledo, because somehow their public safety department is going to be $4 million short. Somehow Toledo is going to have to make that up. And every town in Ohio that has been using this device to control speed is going to have to make up those deficits.”
Driving much of the criticism is the speeding camera program run by Elmwood Place, a small village near Cincinnati. The program was decried by a Hamilton County judge as a “scam that the motorists can’t win.”
“Six thousand tickets in 30 days at $105…with 40 percent of the revenue going to an outside company that is not located in the state of Ohio…,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D., Cincinnati). She represents Elmwood Place and a portion of Cincinnati, which rejected the cameras at the polls.
“It has become a money grab,” she said.
Attempts to find some middle ground, standards that the roughly 15 municipalities with camera programs must follow, have so far come up empty.
Some of Ohio’s largest cities have camera programs. Toledo took in nearly $3 million in fines in 2012 and expects $4.2 million this year. Northwood, in Wood County, recently allowed its contract with its camera operator to expire, so that program has gone dark.
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