Tennessee Senate Committee Approves Freeway Speed Cameras
Tennessee authorizes interstate work zone speed cameras under the guise of a ban.

The Tennessee state Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted 9-0 to authorize the use of speed cameras in so-called "work zones" on interstate highways. The vote was unusual in that state Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) presented his legislation as if it would prohibit the use of speed cameras, even though the actual legislative text has the opposite effect.

"The amendment basically just says surveillance cameras shall not be permitted on federal interstate highways," Burchett explained to the committee. "Except for department of transportation designated work zones."

The exception grants permission to any local or state governmental entity to deploy speed cameras anywhere on an interstate highway where a sign designates construction work, regardless of whether any workers are actually present. This is not the first time that Burchett, with the support of Committee Chairman Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), has promoted photo enforcement while saying that he is personally opposed to it. Last year Burchett offered a bill that authorized the widespread use of red light cameras and speed cameras throughout the state. The bill became law on July 1, 2008.

In discussing the freeway camera bill in committee, Senators Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) expressed interest in amending the bill so that it banned speed cameras on state highways, but Burchett and Tracy blocked attempts to change the bill. Tracy said that the issue was "complicated" and that the committee would consider bills addressing the question in the near future.

"Well, point out which lobbyist is opposed," Jackson said, jokingly.

Next Tuesday, the committee is scheduled to discuss Senate Bill 768 which, as currently written, would strike a blow to the use of red light cameras by requiring photo-enforced intersections to have a yellow time of no less than five seconds. Provisions mandating longer yellows in Georgia and Ohio have eliminated eighty percent of violations in cities that complied with the law. Senate Bill 1502 would have had the same effect before the chairman's amendment turned the bill into an authorization of work zone cameras.

Article Excerpt:
Tennessee General Assembly 2009
Senate Bill No. 1502 / House Bill No. 1202*

By deleting all of the language after the enacting clause and by substituting instead the following:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 55-8-198, is amended by adding a new subsection thereto, as follows:

(e) Surveillance cameras shall not be permitted on federal interstate highways except for department of transportation designated work zones.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.