The fight over Florida's red light cameras is headed back to Tallahassee.
On Wednesday, Senate Transportation Committee chairman Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) filed bill SB 144, which seeks to ban the use of traffic cameras to issue citations.
“This program was originally sold as being about safety,” Brandes said. “I have come to believe that it’s now about revenue.”
A libertarian Republican, Brandes is a frequent critic of red light cameras, calling them a “backdoor tax increase.” He pointed to the small Central Florida city of Edgewood as an example of camera abuse. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the city has a population of 2,500 but handed out 10,000 red light citations in 2012.
“That city is covering a huge portion of its tax base with revenue from the cameras,” Brandes said. “How is that not a tax?”
The $158 collected from each red light camera ticket is split between the state, municipality, and camera vendor, which in most cases in Florida is Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions.
According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the cameras produced around $62 million dollars in revenue for the state between July 2012 and June 2013 alone.
However, the reprieve was short-lived. Cameras were reactivated after commissioners voted to resume following testimony from trauma doctors and car accident victims, although they formed a special board designed to hear appeals.
Charles Territo, a spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, counters Brandes' notion that the cameras are all about revenue. He told the Tampa Bay Times ATS records show the average number of citations per camera declined by 40 percent for cameras installed before 2011 and by more than half for cameras installed between July 2011 and July 2012.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety, as well as several private studies, have also argued that there are fewer crashes and fewer fatalities at intersections with cameras.
In Miami, meanwhile, the red light ticket appeals board is getting ready to hear its first 60 cases, according to Miami Today.
"We've spent the last couple of months learning more about the process, understanding the regulations that apply and setting up the systems internally," planning director Francisco Garcia told the paper, "and understanding what responsibilities are assigned to the police department and what to the planning and zoning department."
Clarification: Following a report at Miami Today, this article originally listed the fine in Miami as $119. The statewide fine is $158.