House votes to ban new photo radar enforcement on Ariz. highways
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
The House voted Tuesday to ban any new photo radar enforcement of speeding laws from state highways.

A provision inserted into the budget at the last minute bars any state agency from setting up the radar units and cameras that would be necessary for automated enforcement of speeding laws.

Most immediately, that would quash plans announced in January by Gov. Janet Napolitano to have photo radar used around the state.

That came after the governor concluded that an experimental system set up along Loop 101 through Scottsdale did a good job cutting the number of speeders.

Foes of photo radar have been unable for several years to push through legislation to ban the practice. By making it part of the House GOP budget package, lawmakers were presented with an all-or-nothing deal.

House Majority Leader Tom Boone, R-Peoria, defended the maneuver.

“As you know, photo radar does generate tickets,” he said. “Tickets generate money, revenue comes into the budget. Anything and everything that deals with money in any way is subject to (the state) budget.”

The measure would not affect the existing photo enforcement cameras on Loop 101. Cities also could operate their own systems — but not on state-controlled roads.

Instead, each request to set up such a program would have to be specifically approved by the Legislature.

Now, lawmakers have no say.

Scottsdale established its photo enforcement program with an agreement with the state Department of Transportation. And Napolitano in January, impressed with the results from that program, directed the state Department of Public Safety to begin contracting with private firms to set up similar operations elsewhere.

Some of those would be fixed cameras, like the ones on Loop 101. But others would be mobile units that could be set up on two-lane state roads throughout Arizona, as well as along work sites to control speeders.

Jack Lane, chief of the Highway Patrol division of the State Department of Public Safety, said the cameras can provide the round-the-clock coverage at problem areas that his officers cannot.

He said even if drivers figure out there are cameras, that’s still a good thing: They will slow up.

Lane said, though, the real benefit may be in freeing up officers to go after motorists who pose an even greater threat to safety, like those who are drunk, driving aggressively and weaving in and out of traffic.

But photo radar has its detractors.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, wants to put the issue before voters next year. He said they should get to decide whether they want to have their driving practices policed by automated equipment.