Cameras near final OK

Senate's plan to monitor traffic speed at highway work and school zones given preliminary House approval

April 10, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,

The House of Delegates is moving to accept the Senate's plan to allow speed cameras in highway work zones and within a half-mile of schools. After rejecting about a dozen amendments Thursday that would have further restricted speed cameras, delegates gave preliminary approval to the Senate measure, with a final vote scheduled for Friday.

If approved, owners of vehicles captured traveling at least 12 mph above the posted limit in camera-monitored zones would receive $40 citations in the mail. Owners could contest those tickets in court and would not be penalized with points on their licenses. The measure would expand a pilot program in place in Montgomery County. Police there say cameras, which are installed and maintained by private vendors with police oversight, have reduced speeding. Critics call them a Big Brother-style intrusion that amounts to a new tax.

Several delegates urged the House to amend the speed-camera bill to be fine-free, sending only warning letters for the first few speeding infractions. Others proposed distributing camera profits in the form of tax rebates for all Marylanders. Such amendments, they argued, would alleviate concern that the cameras are a cash cow for local and state governments.

"This has little to do with safety, and much to do with revenue," Del. Michael D. Smigiel, a Cecil County Republican, said of the program.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, had proposed speed cameras in residential neighborhoods, but a Senate committee initially authorized them only in work zones. After much debate, the program was expanded to include schools. The House approved a broader speed-camera program last year and looked ready to do so again. But House leaders have chosen to accept the Senate's more limited plan.

Among the many amendments delegates rejected Thursday was one by Del. Richard K. Impallaria of Baltimore and Harford counties. The Republican legislator had asked that all citations include the names of the delegates who approved the cameras.

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