Push to ban TN traffic cameras includes ‘total polar opposites’

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has done a report on legislation to ban traffic cameras in Tennessee, emphasizing the role of Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, the lead Senate sponsor, while House sponsor Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, has done a press release emphasizing the role of Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, who has signed on as a co-sponsor though Holt says they are “total polar opposites politically.”

From the TFP article:
In “Tennessee Freedom from Traffic Cameras Act,” the Chattanooga Republican calls traffic cameras “a form of mass surveillance over ordinary and innocent Tennessee motorists.” He says they deny people’s constitutional right to face and cross-examine their accuser in court, “because the accuser is a machine.”

And the money generated by the tickets often goes to out-of-state companies, he adds.

“Millions of dollars every year leave our economy at the cost of our constitutional rights and the aforementioned constitutional rights do not have a price-tag,” according to the proposed law.

Gardenhire said Friday he and House sponsor Andy Holt, R-Dresden, had been discussing traffic camera legislation for some time and this session just seemed like the right time.

“It’s just a huge, huge source of complaints from people all over the state,” Gardenhire said. “It’s looked at as a revenue producer for cities and counties more than a safety matter.”

His biggest issue with traffic camera tickets is there is no effective way to fight them in court.

“Is there an excuse for speeding? No. But there are circumstances, and [with cameras] there’s not even anybody to go talk to about it,” Gardenhire said.

If passed, the law would make Chattanooga’s more than a dozen traffic cameras illegal. City spokeswoman Lacie Stone said that would be unfortunate.

“Because of these cameras, we have successfully reduced accidents, in some areas dramatically, and made these areas safer for citizens,” Stone said.

Note: Holt’s press release is below.

News release from Rep. Andy Holt:
NASHVILLE, February 26, 2015– Newly elected Senator Lee Harris (D-Memphis) and I would seem like total polar opposites politically. He’s from the big city of Memphis; I’m from a small town in rural Tennessee; He’s a Democrat, I’m a Republican; He’s black, I’m white; He’s in the Senate, I’m in the House. Unfortunately, many would draw a seemingly logical conclusion that we don’t like each other– that we would seek to oppose and discredit one another. Given the national political environment, it is an easy assumption to make.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, in the few short weeks I have spent with Senator Harris, I have grown to love and respect him. He is brave, bold, responsible, and exactly what the people of Memphis need in a Democratic State Senator.

While Senator Harris and I may not find common ground on many policy issues, we are linking arms on a huge issue for many Tennesseans; outlawing traffic cameras in the Volunteer State.

The presence of traffic cameras in the Great State of Tennessee is a festering wound to the free and sovereign people of this state. We’ve heard the fallacious arguments in favor of traffic cameras time and time again.

They generate revenue for the city: Since when did your constitutional rights have a price-tag? Did I mention that the vast majority of revenue is sent to out-of-state companies running the cameras, which has resulted in millions of dollars leaving Tennessee’s economy?

They reduce accidents: The only studies and data that show this outcome are funded by the cities and companies making millions of dollars off of the cameras, making such studies and data inherently biased. In fact, non-bias, independent studies show that traffic cameras actually increase accidents.

The list goes on, and each argument is just as easy to defeat.

The truth is simple. The vast majority of Tennesseans oppose having the right to face their accuser usurped by out-of-state companies. Also, many law enforcement agents I have spoken with have privately told me they oppose cameras because it creates anger, distrust and angst among the citizens they serve, which they feel puts them at greater risk. It is unfortunate that these law enforcement agents must remain silent due to fear of losing their job should they rock the boat.

As a Memphis city councilman, Sen. Harris voted against traffic cameras multiple times. Now, as a newly elected member of the Tennessee General Assembly, Sen. Harris was the first Senate co-sponsor of the “Tennessee Freedom From Traffic Cameras Act”. Sen. Harris will undoubtedly be attacked by his city officials, but his resolve to stand for Tennesseans will never be forgotten by me.

Democrats and Republicans can work together for the greater good of Tennessee, and I pray we see more of this.

To the people of Rocky Top, please join the fight by calling Sen. Harris to thank him for his stand. Also, please be sure to call members of both the Senate and House Transportation committees and tell them this simple message: “Please pass the Tennessee Freedom From Traffic Cameras Act. My rights are not for sale.”