A group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would allow cities to use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. The bill, which was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, would also allow law enforcement personnel to use cameras to catch people who are speeding.
In 2007 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that red light cameras are unconstitutional because the tickets were linked to a driver’s license, not to the motorist who committed the violation. Minneapolis city officials were forced to refund millions of dollars after the court ruled the law unconstitutional.
Supporters of the new bill say they think technology will address those concerns because the cameras will capture pictures of both the license plate and the motorist.
“It’s very controversial, but we just don’t want to give up on it,” said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, the chief author of the bill in the House.
Hausman said she’s pushing the legislation because she wants to reduce accidents at dangerous intersections. She said city officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul have not taken a position on the bill but said St. Cloud officials have expressed interest.
“It is a matter with people thinking they can get away with breaking the law,” Hausman said. “The problem is people die when that happens. The stakes are high enough for me.”
The stakes are also high for opponents of the legislation.
“This technology is wrong. You need to have somebody hand somebody a ticket,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Samuelson said he has major questions about the proposed legislation. In particular, how would governments enforce the law if the owner of a vehicle isn’t the person in the photograph?
Samuelson said the ACLU intends to lobby against the legislation and is prepared to go further if it’s enacted into law.
“We would oppose this by any means necessary, but we would rather not undergo the cost of a lawsuit and have everyone else, government wise, pay for the costs of a lawsuit. We think this should just go away,” he said.
Supporters of the bill say they think they’ll be able to address the constitutional issues involving the bill as it goes through the committee process. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Policy Committee.