Governor signs red-light camera ban
published on Tuesday, May 5, 2009 10:10 PM MDT

By Chronicle Staff
Gov. Brian Schweitzer Tuesday signed into a law a bill that bans the use of red-light cameras in Montana, bringing an end to Bozeman’s plans to add the controversial cameras at some city intersections.

Bozeman officials said last month that they would ask Schweitzer to veto the bill, but the governor instead signed House Bill 531 that had garnered overwhelming support in both houses of the Montana Legislature that concluded last week. The law forbids using cameras or other technology to enforce traffic violations not witnessed by a police officer.

Last October, Bozeman became the first city in Montana to approve the use of cameras for traffic enforcement, although Billings too passed a similar ordinance last month. City officials maintained that the cameras would slow drivers and prevent the increasing number of accidents at some of the town’s busiest intersections. They also contended that the state shouldn’t get involved with a local ordinance.

Opponents, though, contended that the cameras actually cause more accidents than they prevent and were just a ploy to raise money for city’s coffers.

Legislators had considered an amendment that would have granted an exception to the law to Bozeman, which had already entered into a contract with an Arizona company to provide and operate the cameras. That amendment failed, however, sending the proposed law to the governor for consideration. The bill passed in the House, 67-33, and 36-14 in the Senate
The cameras hadn’t yet been installed in Bozeman, and officials have said it won’t cost the city any money to back out of its contract with Red-Flex Traffic Systems.