State legislators take a new stab at photo red-light reform

“This year we are putting reasonable parameters on where red-light cameras can and cannot be used,” said state Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, who is sponsoring a bill that would ban the cameras on the state’s local and collector roads.

AURORA | For years state lawmakers have attempted to make photo red-light systems illegal, and lawmakers as well as residents have remained divided on Aurora using the program.

A photo red-light camera is seen at the intersection of East Iliff Avenue and South Chambers Street. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel“This year we are putting reasonable parameters on where red-light cameras can and cannot be used,” said state Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, who is sponsoring a bill that would ban the cameras on the state’s local and collector roads.

Lebsock said House Bill 1231, which he is sponsoring with Aurora Sen. Morgan Carroll, is a compromise that would prevent red-light cameras and radars from expanding in Colorado.

Last year, Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed two bills: one that would have required the issue to go to the ballot for voter approval, and another that would have banned the cameras outright.

Hickenlooper said the bills went too far and suggested lawmakers pass a bill that limits the scope of the cameras to school and construction zones and areas with a high rate of pedestrian and traffic accidents. HB 1231 would still allow photo red light cameras to be located in school zones, on a highway or in road construction repair zones, as well as on arterial roads.

Aurora’s photo red-light cameras are in place at 14 busy intersections across the city, and Aurora police contend they are making most intersections where they are located safer. Last year, Aurora police even discussed moving some of them from where they are now to six of the city’s most-dangerous intersections to mitigate accidents.

Lebsock said the bill would not impact municipalities that have the cameras installed on major roadways but instead prevent them from being extended to neighborhoods.

“If we allow the state to place red-light on every signalized light in the state, we’re not only violating our personal privacy, we’re violating our Colorado citizens’ civil liberties,” he said. Under the bill, fees generated from red-light cameras could only be used for traffic safety improvements and traffic enforcement.

Aurora’s city coffers see more than $1 million a year from photo red-light tickets. Some of that money goes toward a “nexus” program that relies on nearly $500,000 from photo red-light fines, and could be vulnerable if the bill passes. The program supports nonprofits that provide a substantial service to law enforcement.

Aurora Councilwoman Sally Mounier, who sits on the city’s federal, state and intergovernmental relations policy committee,  said she would like to see the city find another use for red-light revenue if the cameras aren’t completely banned this year. 

“I want the money out of the general fund, not a special budget,” she said. “If this is really important to the city, we find a way to pay for it out of the general budget.”

HB 1231 will be heard by the state House Transportation & Energy committee Feb. 24.

House Bill 1143, which is sponsored by several Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the statehouse, will again attempt to outright ban red-light cameras. It will be heard March 9 by the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee.

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