A bill that would let voters statewide decide whether to outlaw traffic cameras was crushed Monday in the Louisiana House Transportation Committee.
The vote was 14-1 to kill the plan, House Bill 257.
Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, sponsor of the measure, said polls show heavy opposition to the cameras. He predicted a statewide vote would result in 90 percent of voters casting ballots to end the practice.
"There is going to be an overwhelming thumping of these traffic cameras," Hollis said.
"They are about one thing, they are about money," he told the committee. "Nothing more."
Hollis said New Orleans has collected about $100 million in the past nine or 10 years in traffic camera dollars.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration announced plans to nearly double the number of traffic cameras in use in the city as it unveiled the 2017 budget last fall. Officials said they would add 45 stationary cameras at 32 school zones and 10 mobile cameras to the 66 speeding and red-light cameras already installed at 42 locations around the city.
They said the tickets issued by the new cameras were expected to bring in about $8 million in revenue a year, though about $3 million of that would go to the city’s contractor and city workers.
In the first three months of the year, about 6,790 citations were issued for violations caught by the mobile cameras. Another 51,151 citations were issued for violations caught by the existing cameras, a sharp drop-off from the 66,840 that were issued by those same cameras during the same three months in 2016. Revenue from traffic cameras often declines as motorists learn their locations and adjust their driving accordingly.
The Hollis legislation was opposed by officials with the City of New Orleans, the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police and the Louisiana Municipal Association.
John Gallagher, executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association, said the proposed ban would usurp the rights of local officials, including mayors and city councils.
Gallagher said officials in Shreveport backed off plans to install the cameras amid local opposition, and a proposal to use them in Sulphur, near the Texas border in western Louisiana, failed.
"So the process works," he said. "It is purely a local decision."
Gallagher also said traffic cameras are virtually nonexistent north of Interstate 10.
The lone "yes' vote for Hollis' bill was cast by state Rep. Terry Brown, No Party-Colfax.
Brown said he was once struck from behind by a vehicle in New Orleans when he braked to avoid chances for getting a traffic camera ticket.
Driving in New Orleans was a recurring topic in the debate.
Brown said he is always leery of doing so because of traffic cameras.
Hollis made the same comment, and said St. Tammany Parish officials would never enact such a policy.
Rodney Braxton, a lobbyist for the City of New Orleans, said the issue is a local one in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette and has failed to surface as a key topic in local elections in those three cities.
"What people have done is adjust their driving," Braxton told panel members. "I will just leave it at that."
New Orleans is installing hundreds of signs warning drivers that mobile traffic cameras may …
The legislation, which requires the support of two thirds of the state House and Senate, would have been submitted to voters on Oct. 14.
A bill that would ban traffic cameras unless they are approved by local voters failed Thursd…
It would have banned local officials from using the cameras or collecting any fines from the devices.
Under questioning, Hollis said he once got a traffic camera speeding ticket when he was rushing his daughter to a hospital when she was suffering from dehydration.
Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, said she "tends to speed" and once got a speeding ticket that stemmed from a traffic camera. "I paid the ticket and I felt it was overdue," Carpenter said.
Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, who was acting chairman of the panel during Monday's hearing, suggested backers of the bill opposed parking tickets and other law enforcement sanctions on roads and highways.
Landry is a former superintendent of State Police.
Hollis said studies differ on the impact of the cameras in trimming traffic accidents.
"But what they definitely do is create a lot of revenue for companies outside of Louisiana, outside of the United States," Hollis said.
He said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has said traffic cameras hurt tourism.