Louisiana Legislature Shanghais Speed Trap Revenue

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The Louisiana State Legislature last week sent Governor Bobby Jindal (R) a bill that will stop small towns from padding their budgets by issuing minor speeding tickets on interstate highways. In adopting the measure, state lawmakers put themselves on the record for the first time in clear support of red light cameras and speed cameras. State Representative Hollis Downs (R-Ruston) has spent the past four years negotiating a compromise with local officials and law enforcement agencies to shut down speed traps. The state’s Legislative Auditor found fifteen cities made more than half their budget from speeding tickets ( view report). Under the bill introduced by Downs, non-home rule jurisdictions would not be allowed to retain any revenue from speeding tickets issued for violations of between one and ten MPH over the speed limit on an interstate. Instead, the state will pocket the revenue.

The state Senate approved Downs’ measure unanimously and the House with a 72-13 vote. During the House discussion, however, lawmakers rejected two separate amendments that would have expanded the bill to put an end to the use of photo enforcement by local jurisdictions to raise revenue. Representative Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) first proposed to ban photo ticketing outright.

“With this amendment we basically would join fourteen other states across this country that have said, ‘You know what, there’s no due process,'” Arnold (D-New Orleans) said. “Our constituents don’t get a fair hearing. The legislatures in fourteen states and their governors have decided, ‘We’re not going to do this at all; Big Brother is not coming here.'”

House Transportation Committee Chairman Nita Hutter (R-Chalmette) strongly objected to the amendment, insisting that red light cameras and speed cameras are positive tools.

“Yes this about some money, we come up here and do this all the time,” Hutter said. “We set these fees. If this is a money grab, then every other ticket that you write for every other violation is a money grab if you look at it like that . . . This is a safety measure, that’s all it is.”

With opposition of Downs and Hutter, Arnold’s camera ban failed by a 56-26 margin. Arnold followed up with a second amendment. He proposed to mandate that automated ticketing could only be implemented after the affirmative vote of residents in a referendum. Arnold cited the example of the city of Sulphur where 85 percent of voters rejected speed cameras. A greater number of state House members spoke in favor of the referendum idea.

“Wouldn’t that be the most American, the most democratic thing to do?” Representative M.J. “Mert” Smiley, Jr. (R-Port Vincent) asked.

Nonetheless, lawmakers rejected the referendum amendment by a 50-38 vote. Previously, the state House had adopted legislation expanding the use of photo enforcement under the guise of “restrictions” on automated ticketing.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Grog Grog on Jun 29, 2009

    Will this really cut down on the local yokel Deputy Fifes and their speed trappery? Perhaps. OTOH, it could also mean that they pull over speeders and *say* they're doing 11 mph over the speed limit. Focus that on the out-of-staters who can't realistically contest the ticket and bingo: revenue's remain high.

  • Petrolhead85 Petrolhead85 on Jun 29, 2009

    So basically the money flows through different channels, but the average motorist still gets raped. Business as usual, I guess.

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