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Ohio step closer to banning traffic cameras

The Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to ban using red light and speed cameras throughout Ohio.

House Bill 69 now goes to the Ohio Senate, which won’t consider it until after its summer recess. As a consolation to law enforcement officials who said the cameras help reduce crashes, legislators carved out an exception allowing communities to operate speed cameras in school zones during school hours as long as a police officer is present to monitor the machine.

The bill passed the House, 61-32.

Bill sponsors Reps. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, and Dale Mallory, D-Cincinnati, said the cameras have been used as a cash grab and bypass due process. They were inspired by the case of Elmwood Place, a Hamilton County village of roughly 2,200 people that issued $1.5 million in tickets during the first six months its speeding cameras were on. A judge ordered the cameras shut down last March.

“They’ve taken law enforcement and rigged it for profit,” Maag said. “No amount of regulation can justify the continued use of these machines.”

Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the cameras eliminate the discretion police, prosecutors and judges have to dismiss speeding and traffic violations.

“We have to weigh liberty versus safety all the time. We have a whole system set up to do that for us,” Huffman said. “Speed cameras trump that system and remove that system from us.”

Some legislators said the cameras should be more strictly regulated, but not banned, and that all communities in Ohio shouldn’t be punished because of the abuses of a few. Some also expressed concerns about how the 14 Ohio communities who operate them would make up the revenue difference if the cameras are banned.

“There have been abuses of red light cameras throughout the state of Ohio, and it needs to be addressed,” said Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield. “But I don’t think doing away with them entirely is the correct measure.”

Police and local governments that operate the cameras oppose the ban, saying they have helped reduce crashes and free up police resources to fight more serious crime.

The Ohio Municipal League, the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and Traffic Safety Coalition issued a joint statement following the ban, saying it would prevent Ohio cities and law enforcement from holding red light runners and speeders accountable.

“We are committed to defeating this bill and hop senators and the governor will join us,” the statement said.

Among the communities with red-light or speed cameras or both include Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown, New Miami, Springfield, Trotwood and West Carrollton.

If legislators end up approving the ban, Ohio would become the tenth state to ban automated traffic enforcement cameras, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

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