House, Senate take different courses on traffic camera legislation

Legislation to ban unmanned red-light and speeding enforcement cameras in Tennessee is moving in the House while Senate version has been revised to only curtail use of the devices rather than ban them, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday amended the traffic camera bill to replace its ban on using the cameras for issuing citations with these restrictions:

-Unmanned speed-enforcement cameras could not be used to issue a citation to a driver unless the vehicle is traveling at least 15 mph in excess of the posted speed limit.

-No citation could be issued through a red-light camera unless the camera records evidence that the signal has at least six second of yellow caution light.

One of the bill’s Senate sponsors, Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said that compromise brings lawmakers “one step closer to driving red-light camera operators out of Tennessee. Extending yellow lights to six seconds at these intersections will cut down on accidents and spare citizens the frustrations of these frivolous tickets.”

The amended Senate Bill 1128 won a 6-1 committee vote and now heads to the full Senate.

The House version, HB 1372 by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, won House Transportation Committee approval on a 9-7 vote Tuesday with a different amendment saying “No municipality or county may purchase, install, operate, maintain … or contract with any person or entity to purchase, install, operate or maintain any unmanned traffic enforcement camera to enforce or monitor any traffic violations.”

Holt said it clarifies that “the legislative intent is to ban these devices, even in a non-contractual basis.” In some but not all of the Tennessee cities and counties with the cameras — including Knoxville and Memphis — the cameras are operated under contract by out-of-state vendors who collect a portion of the revenue from the tickets.