A suburban Cleveland Republican’s plan to squelch what he considers a misuse of local authority by municipalities and townships that operate traffic cameras within their jurisdictions attacks the issue from multiple angles.
Earlier this week, Strongsville Rep. Tom Patton championed a quartet of bills in the Ohio House of Representatives that would end local authorities’ so-called abuse of issuing citations originating from traffic cameras.
The lawmaker offered the following brief descriptions of his plan to lawmakers seated for the State and Local Government Committee:
“House Bill 139: Prohibits a municipal corporation or township that does not operate either a fire department or an emergency medical services organization from utilizing traffic law photo-monitoring devices;
“House Bill 140: Prohibits a local authority with a population of 200 or fewer from utilizing traffic law photomonitoring devices;
“House Bill 141: Prohibits a local authority, in any year, from issuing a total number of traffic tickets based the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices that exceeds two times the population of the local authority; (and)
“House Bill 142: Prohibits a local authority from deriving more than 30 percent of the total annual revenue of the local authority from the issuance of tickets for traffic law violations based on evidence recorded by traffic law photo-monitoring devices.”
Patton called out the village of Linndale in Cuyahoga County for the practice.
“Linndale is notorious for operating traffic cameras and issuing a large amount of tickets,” he said. “The misuse of these cameras was not clear to me until we took a closer look at the numbers.
“Based on a regular audit produced by Auditor of State, Dave Yost’s office, the village of Linndale’s general total cash receipts tallied $1,460,031 in 2017. Of that … , $1,383,030 came from the issuance of fines, licenses and permits.” — 95 percent of the village’s total revenue that year was generated by traffic camera tickets.
“This is clearly an unjust use and abuse in municipal local authority,” Patton said.
Were any of Patton’s bills enacted, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission has noted the potential for a constitutional challenge.
“The provisions of the bill may infringe upon a municipal corporation’s authority to exercise its powers of local self-government under Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution,” attorney Carlen Zhang-D’Souza wrote in the commission’s analysis of HB 142. “Further, the Ohio Supreme Court has routinely held that a municipal corporation may maintain a traffic camera program under its home rule authority (granted through Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution).”
Patton maintained that such abuse has even greater public safety implications.
“When drivers see a police officer on the road they are reminded that they must maintain a safe speed at all times and, if someone is in fact driving recklessly or over the speed limit, the police officer is there to witness, pull over and ticket that individual,” he argued. “In a village like Linndale, the offender would simply receive a ticket in the mail a month or two later, and the offender’s illegal behavior would not be apprehended.”
The lawmaker bolstered his position with a 2017 Case Western Reserve University study that found so-called red light cameras contribute nothing to the reduction of accidents or injuries.
Rather, the study of such cameras in use at intersections in Houston found the cameras only changed the composition of an accident.
“In fact, Houston’s large red camera program was shut down by the voters through a referendum,” he said.
The bills were not scheduled further hearing at time of publication.