TALLAHASSEE - A plan to allow Florida counties and cities to install cameras at intersections to catch motorists who run red lights made history Friday: It was heard and approved in a House committee.
But despite the taste of success, the bill (HB 1247), filed for the fourth consecutive year, will again fail to reach Gov. Charlie Crist's desk.
The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, the bill's first committee stop in that chamber, said he won't hear the companion bill because he is uncomfortable with it philosophically.
"My concerns are about any time we give a ticket and there's not actually a law enforcement officer issuing the ticket and there's not actually a person receiving the ticket in a face-to-face situation," Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, said.
But Baker said the more he studies the issue, the more open to the idea he becomes.
The plan is growing in acceptance among lawmakers who once were uncomfortable with the idea because of concerns about privacy, or because the penalties might be too stringent.
Baker said he would study the plan during the summer so he can come back with a bill next year he is more supportive of.
Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, the bill's sponsor, told members of the House Economic Expansion and Infrastructure Council not to be swayed by arguments of privacy.
"This bill is about public safety," Reagan told the House committee Friday. "When you're in a vehicle on a public highway there's no expectation of privacy."
Melissa Wandall of Bradenton pleaded for the bill's approval. She lost her husband, Mark, to a motorist who ran a red light a little more than a mile from their home, two weeks before their daughter was born in 2003.
"It's only for those runners who are blatantly running our red lights," she said. "Running red lights has become a way of life. We all know that .Ê.Ê. Let this be my husband's legacy."
The council approved the bill unanimously.
There are some cities throughout Florida, such as Gulf Breeze, that have begun using the traffic cameras. But Reagan said the attorney general's office has told him there may be legal questions, and that having the Legislature pass a bill formally authorizing the installation of cameras is the best way to address the issue.
To make this year's bill more palatable to potential opponents, Reagan's bill would enable counties and cities to issue civil fines of $125. Previous bills contained criminal traffic infractions.