Lawmaker's attempt to give voters a say about traffic cameras hits roadblock

Lawmaker's attempt to give voters a say about traffic cameras hits roadblock

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - For years, the city has numbered among the communities around the country that gave a green light to traffic cameras. And it takes mere seconds to local people who have paid the price.

"So how many tickets? I got four. I didn't realize I had a ticket, it then it kind of came a few days later, but it does make people slow down and they have two schools here," said Dawn Bonck.

She said she got the tickets at the start of the school year, and since that time she has monitored her speed more closely.

"It was beginning of the school year. It was like the first week, and we got like, I got one the first week and then the next week I got like three more and it was because I didn't notice the camera," said Bonck.

State Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, hit the gas pedal in the State Legislature in hopes of driving home his stance that the electronic eyes trained on motorists in New Orleans and in a handful of other communities around the state need to be turned off.

"This is not a bill just to get rid of traffic cameras, this is a bill to give the people of our state the opportunity to assert their opinion on this important issue," said Hollis before the House Transportation Committee Monday.

His legislation, HB 257, calls for people statewide to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit local governments from putting up automated speed enforcement devices like cameras that work in conjunction with traffic control signals or radar detection equipment on any public street, road, or highway.

"They're not about safety. In fact, I'll give you a visual about what I think traffic cameras are about. They're about money, nothing more than money - and lots of money."

Hollis said he had a poll conducted.

"I did one over the weekend. The percentage of people that are in favor of traffic cameras in our state, it's not a surprise to me. Members, it was 11 percent. Eighty-nine percent of the people in Louisiana are against traffic cameras," Hollis said.

He said local governments desperate for additional revenues have signed on.

"Over the years, the city of New Orleans, over a hundred million dollars they brought in with the use of these machines. I believe these machines are unconstitutional. I think they take our Bill of Rights and throw them in the garbage," said Hollis.

"People get distracted and these cameras are a distraction," said Daniel Hayes, a citizen who spoke before the legislative committee.

Hollis told fellow lawmakers that he avoids driving in the city of New Orleans. He said he is uncomfortable driving through cameras provided by out-of-state companies because of privacy and other concerns.

"I can tell you I'm nervous, not just nervous that out-of-state, out-of-the-country people can see my family, take a photo of my license plate. It makes me nervous. I'm edgy because you don't know what these cameras are," Hollis said.

But there was push-back.

"There's no expectation of privacy on public roads. You can probably get on social media and can see pictures of cars traveling up and down the streets.  Nothing would prevent me from pointing my phone out the window and taking a picture on the public street," said John Gallagher with the Louisiana Municipal Association.

A veteran member of the NOPD's traffic division also spoke.

"We're seeing these cameras taking effect and doing a large service for us.  We know speed kills," said Lt. Anthony Micheu.

And in terms of disobeying traffic laws, the officer thinks drivers would rather be caught by a camera than a cop.

"Because they're not just getting one ticket, they might two or three, expired license plate, brake tag, insurance," Micheu said.

In the end, the committee voted 14-to-1 to reject Hollis' legislation.

"Despite all of our efforts and demonstrations that this is about money and not about safety, I am truly disappointed in the outcome in that committee," he said moments after the vote.

As for Bonck, even though she has received tickets as a result of the cameras, she is torn on whether they should be removed.

"I would like to say that they would go and people would slow down, but they probably are a good thing," Bonck said.

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