Tag Archives: traffic cameras

New AG opinion: Cities not violating TN traffic camera law

Expanding on an opinion released in July, the Tennessee attorney general says cities that contract with red-light camera companies are not violating state law, reports the News Sentinel.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery, in his opinion Monday, said the state’s statute that requires a certified police officer determine whether laws were broken does not mean that others cannot examine video images. (Note: Full opinion HERE.)

“Vendors engaging in sorting or pre-screening of the video footage are not making a determination that a violation has occurred,” Slatery wrote. “Rather, they are simply ensuring that the law enforcement officers who make those determinations do so efficiently by reviewing only usable information.”

He concluded: “In short, the statute does not prevent a city from contracting with a private vendor to sort or screen the video information for footage that cannot form the basis for a citation.”

Knoxville earlier this month opted to extend its current red-light camera contract with Lasercraft Inc. for 60 days to give city staff time to study Slatery’s first ruling and wait for subsequent opinions. Continue reading

Holt says AG Slatery agrees with him on traffic camera companies violating TN law

News release from state Rep. Andy Holt (with the headline, ‘Attorney General Sides with Rep. Holt)
NASHVILLE, Thursday, July 07, 2016– Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) has been on a crusade against the use of photo-enforcement cameras for many years, citing that they are illegal and turn the American justice system on its head. Giving a boost to Holt’s argument, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery responded to a request by Holt to opine on whether or not out-of-state traffic camera companies contracted by Tennessee cities were in violation of state law on Wednesday afternoon.

(Note: The opinion is HERE.)

At the heart of Holt’s issue, is the fact that out-of-state photo-enforcement companies contracted throughout the state of Tennessee have utilized non-law enforcement employees to preliminarily review video footage of supposed traffic violations, and are then making determinations regarding whether or not a violation has occurred. The scrubbed footage is then sent back to local law enforcement agencies with violations that are simply rubber-stamped by a POST-certified officer. Local law enforcement agencies often claim that an officer “witnessed” the supposed violator and by placing their signature on the ticket claim to validate the supposed violation. For all practical purposes, actual law enforcement personnel have been removed from the current photo-enforcement process, with the single exception of simply placing the signature of an officer on each ticket that has already been processed by the employees of these private companies.
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Update on Rep. Holt’s traffic ticket burning; police chief says that’s not wise

(Note: This post was first published by the News Sentinel, HERE and updates previous post HERE.)
State Rep. Andy Holt is urging Tennesseans to ignore traffic camera tickets and emphasizing his point by burning a citation in a video that apparently has received more than 325,000 Facebook views.

“What do you do if you get one? Throw it in the trash. Personally, I prefer to burn mine,” says Holt, R-Dresden, in a lengthy news release issued in conjunction with posting the video on his Facebook page Wednesday, which shows him using a cigarette lighter to set the ticket aflame.

But Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said in an email Thursday that Holt is not offering sound advice.

“No one likes to be caught violating traffic offenses, regardless of how they are caught, but they have a legal obligation to properly address it. Burning a citation or throwing it away is an emotional response that may feel good, but it does not make the violation and accountability go away,” Rausch said.

Holt, a longtime critic of traffic camera tickets who has repeatedly called for banning them outright in Tennessee, was joined by state Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, this year in sponsoring a bill, HB2510, that requires all citations resulting from a traffic camera video to include this notice:

“Non-payment of this (citation) cannot adversely affect your credit score or report, driver’s license, and/or automobile insurance rates.” Continue reading

Rep. Holt burns traffic camera ticket, urges others to do same

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, has taken to burning traffic cameras tickets and urging others to do the same or at least toss them into the trash. Holt posted a video of his own ticket burning on his Facebook page Wednesday — it’s HERE — and, as of Thursday morning, it had about 259,000 views.

holt

The lawmaker has a lengthy press release on the matter, which includes contentions that cities and traffic camera companies are violating the law. The full release is HERE. An excerpt is below: Continue reading

Rep. Holt says traffic camera companies violating state law; seeks AG opinon

News release from Rep. Andy Holt
NASHVILLE, March 4, 2016—On Friday, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) announced that he will be asking the Attorney General to step in and deliver an opinion on the practice of using traffic cameras to enforce citations.

“This practice is so predatory it’s not even funny,” said Holt. “City officials and lawmakers know these companies are violating the law, but the almighty dollar speaks louder than the rights of Tennesseans.”

At question is a specific part of Tennessee State law that mandates “only POST-certified or state commissioned law enforcement officers shall be authorized to review video evidence from a traffic light signal monitoring system and make a determination as to whether or not a violation has occurred” (TCA 55-8-198 B(1)). However, Holt says that’s not happening.
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Gardenhire, Holt had a final day feud over traffic cameras and ‘tuition equality’

From an Andy Sher story:
For most of this year’s legislative session, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, have worked together on a bill aimed at local governments’ use of automatic traffic cameras.

Consider the partnership severed, thanks to Holt’s work to sabotage Gardenhire’s bill granting in-state tuition rates to some undocumented Tennessee students to attend public colleges.

The tuition equality bill passed the Senate last week but failed by one vote in the House on Wednesday, with Holt voting no. Inside the chamber watching the debate — and Holt — was Gardenhire.

Upset over Holt’s vote, Gardenhire returned to the Senate where he began an effort to recall the traffic camera bill, which had already passed the Senate and was awaiting House action. That drew Holt over to the upper chamber.

“He asked me what was going on and who was trying to kill his bill,” Gardenhire said, adding that he made clear to Holt that the reason was “the vote tally on the in-state tuition.”

Gardenhire said Holt scrambled back to the House and pushed for a vote on the camera bill. In the Senate version, provisions barring all city use of the cameras were scrapped. Instead, it applied only to speed cameras, but exempted Chattanooga’s cameras along the deadly “S” curve section of Hixson Pike and in school zones across Tennessee.

House members had similar amendments, but Gardenhire said Holt was hoping to force the bill to a conference committee, where the original ban on all cameras could be restored.

Instead, Holt accepted the Senate version, which passed.

“Either way, I won,” Gardenhire said.

Note: Action Andy had an earlier story reporting that Holt “falsely claimed in the House Finance Subcommittee Tuesday night that Chattanooga’s speed cameras on Hixson Pike’s infamous “S” curves no longer function and no citations are being issued.” The remark came in debate over the traffic camera bill.

The claim later prompted an email of protest from Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher in which he said he knows for a fact the cameras are operational.

That’s because Fletcher said he himself got a citation for driving too fast through the deadly stretch of roadway not long ago.

When the bill came up later in full committee, Holt wasn’t there and it had a new sponsor, Rep. John Ragen, R-Oak Ridge.

“He says he did make an error,” Ragen told the panel of Holt.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, told the panel that Holt had “apologized” to him. “He said it was an honest mistake and I believe him.”

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.

Bill banning traffic cameras gets House sub OK, ‘bucket of cold water’ in Senate

A proposed ban on the use of traffic cameras in Tennessee won easy approval in a House subcommittee Tuesday, but got a chilly reception in the Senate Transportation Committee, reports the Times-Free Press.

Sponsor Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, expressed confidence he can overcome the announced opposition of committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, to the bill (SB1128).

“Let me tell you members what’s happened on this bill,” Tracy said as the bill came up at the end of the committee’s allotted time. “[Four] years ago, [House] Chairman Vince Dean and myself, we spent two years working on legislation dealing with red-light cameras. I know one of the chiefs knows how hard we worked for two years.

“We put state parameters on. My personal opinion [is] this is a local issue,” Tracy said. “It shouldn’t be a state issue. It should be a local issue. We spent two years working on this, changed a lot of things people were talking about, Sen. Gardenhire. Since that time we’ve had very few complaints in my office.”

With the committee’s time gone, Tracy said the bill would come up next week.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for setting me up like that. I appreciate it very much,” Gardenhire said, chuckling. “Maybe I can return a favor some day.”

…Asked (later) whether he felt a cold wind from Tracy on his bill, Gardener quipped, “That wasn’t a cold wind. That was a bucket of cold water” and laughed.

“But,” Gardenhire added, “Chairman Tracy mentioned that he and Vince Dean did it. Vince is gone now, as you know. So he’s not here and you saw what happened in the House. The House subcommittee passed it a little while a go by a good margin.”

He said that “to overcome Chairman Tracy’s influence on the committee and argumentative style, it’s going to be a pretty tough hill to climb up. But I think I can make my point.”

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.
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Bill would direct traffic camera revenue into college scholarships

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis has filed legislation that would use revenue from municipal red light cameras to send students to college.

Harris said the proposal filed this week (SB361) will create a new scholarship opportunity for students. Under the proposal, all revenue generated by new red light camera contracts after July 1, 2015, would go to the Drive to College scholarship.

According to a report by The Commercial Appeal, red light cameras have generated $3.1 million in camera-related fines in Memphis alone, but the Arizona-based contractor earned $4.8 million.

Last month, Republican state Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden said he plans to file legislation that seeks to ban speeding and red-light cameras in Tennessee.