Red light camera bill passes House
Money would go to state for trauma care fund
By Travis Fain

ATLANTA - A compromise change in state laws surrounding red light cameras passed the Georgia House of Representatives on Tuesday night.

Under House Bill 77, which passed 110-60, 75 percent of the profits cities and counties would otherwise make off the cameras would go to the state. The money would go to the general fund "with the intent" that it be used to improve trauma care in the state, the bill states.

"There's no guarantee that it will go to the trauma network," state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, D-Atlanta, said in arguing against the bill.

But state legislators, and even the governor, have been looking for new funding sources for trauma care - the catch-all name for emergency room care for the most serious injuries. State officials say the trauma system needs major upgrades.

The red light bill also contains other provisions. It states that local governments can't tinker with the timing of a red light to decrease the yellow time before installing a camera. It requires a traffic engineering study before a camera is installed. It states that a motorist can't get a ticket from a police officer, then get another one because of the camera.

House Bill 77's initial intent was to outlaw red light cameras. Some legislators believe the rewritten bill will accomplish a similar goal, since cities and counties will be less likely to install them if they can't keep most of the profits.

State Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, spoke against that bill for that reason, and others.

"You can't raise enough money for trauma centers with this thing," Lucas said.

He suggested taxing video poker machines to raise the money.

House Bill 77 now moves to the state Senate.