BATON ROUGE — Though 89 percent of Louisiana residents disapprove of traffic cameras, they are here to stay — at least for another year.
Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, failed Monday to move his hotly debated House Bill 257, which would have prohibited municipal or parish governments from using cameras or other speed detectors to regulate traffic on public streets and highways.
Hollis told the House Transportation Committee, which soundly dumped HB257 on a 14-1 vote, so few Louisianans are in favor of the devices because “they see them for what they are.”
Hollis said the city of New Orleans has collected millions of dollars with the devices. Hollis charged revenue from those speeding tickets also goes to entities outside the state and the country.
Hollis said the devices, which have been used in Louisiana for about a decade, are unconstitutional and throw the Bill of Rights “in the garbage.” Hollis said they invasively see inside the speeding car and send information to entities outside the state.
Despite Hollis’ passionate stance, many board members were confused by his argument.
Board vice chairman Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, was skeptical, saying he has not seen technology as invasive as Hollis described. Landry, head of Louisiana State Police, also reminded Hollis that police resources are “pretty thin,” therefore officers cannot be there to administer every speeding ticket while conducting other aspects of their jobs.
Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, a self-identified “fast driver” who has fallen victim to the speeding cameras, asked Hollis whether he is trying to make citizens happy just because they are fast drivers like herself.
“Isn’t that the law to drive a certain speed limit?” Carpenter said. “What constitutional rights are you talking about?”
Hollis specifically cited the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which insures the accused the right to a speedy and public trial and to be confronted with the witnesses against him.
Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, said she has also received tickets of that sort and questioned why Hollis' stance against the cameras. “I didn’t like receiving the tickets,” she said. “(But) you shouldn’t be afraid when you’re following the law.”
White said she is more concerned about distracted drivers on the highway.
One supporter of the bill argued that data shows the speeding cameras exponentially distract drivers, increasing rear-end collisions by 700 percent.
“Why would you be turning around looking at cameras...if you’re not doing anything wrong?” Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, asked.
John Gallagher, executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association, argued that the bill indicts local authority and the law does not prevent anyone from taking photos of drivers with their phone cameras.
A retired Baker police chief representing the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police said the cameras do in fact slow traffic and lessen speed-related accidents by 80 percent.
New Orleans Police Department lieutenant Anthony Micheu, who works for the city police traffic division, said 82 percent of those in his city who pay the tickets once never have to pay a ticket again. “It’s not like our economy is going to fail because of these cameras,” he said.
Hollis argued otherwise. He said the cameras “dramatically” hurt tourism.
Rep. Terry Brown, I-Colfax, was the only one who voted in favor of the bill. “Each case should be handled individually,” he said.