Florida Legislators Try to Blow Up Red Light Camera Program

Florida's legislators are back on the job now that 2014 is rolling along, and one of the first pieces of business on the agenda is a big one: red light cameras. I know they're a pain, you know they're a pain, and -- surprisingly -- some lawmakers actually have our backs. A new bill floating through the legislative process would seriously knee-cap the red light setup -- that is, if the proposal has any luck pushing past opposition.

State legislators passed the red light camera ticketing program four years ago, and ever since, the flashing beacons at busy intersections have been printing money for the state and local municipalities.

As it currently stands, tickets currently cost drivers $158. According to, last year the 77 local governments that run the program issued 1,094,106 tickets, racking up $173 million in revenues. About $62 million of that went to local government, with the rest of the spoils split between the state and the for-profit companies running the cams.

The idea is that local governments are pulling too much money off the system -- a system they're enforcing.

The new legislation cuts local out of the equation. Instead of $158, the tickets under the new bill would be capped at $108. The state would keep $83 of the fine, and the locals can levy a $25 charge for the camera vendor. None of the pie would be left for state and county governments.

Is that fair? No, according to the cities. In the Florida Current, Casey Cook, a lobbyist with the Florida League of Cities, argues that there have already been some tweaks to the red light system and that we need to wait until a significant amount of time has passed to see if they're working.

"The Florida Legislature just made some pretty significant changes to the red light cameras," Cook tells the Current. "A lot of these changes didn't go into effect until the fourth quarter of 2013."

Also: "For most if not all of our cities, that $25 wouldn't cover the cost of the program," Cook says.

So what are the chances we'll get rid of these moneymaking ass pains? Eh. Previous efforts to dismantle the program have been swatted before. That said, the shift might be occurring. In addition to this bill, two other pieces of legislation have been filed this session to strike down red light cams outright.

Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.

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