DES MOINES -- Iowa cities pushed back Tuesday on a legislative proposal calling for the state to scoop up 60 percent of the revenue cities now keep from traffic camera citations.
As amended by the House Public Safety Committee, the bill, House File 674, would allow cities to retain 40 percent of the revenue generated by automated traffic camera enforcement after paying expenses. The rest would go to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
However, David Adelman of the Metropolitan Coalition, which represents the largest cities in Iowa, offered an alternative — a $10 surcharge he said would generate $2 million for the Public Safety Department.
The surcharge would be similar to those applied to court fines. It would be a simpler process because of the differences in cities’ contracts with third-party vendors that supply the cameras.
Later, the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, said he’s not interested in the surcharge. Collecting 60 percent of the cities’ revenue ensures that money is used for public safety and benefits the entire state, he said.
“Adding 10 police officers in Cedar Rapids doesn’t help in my district,” he said. “If the cameras truly are for public safety, then this ensures that the revenue is for public safety statewide. “We’re all paying for (traffic citations), so we all should benefit.”
After nine years of discussion without resolution, he wants to pass legislation to regulate the use of the cameras.
The bill would require cities and counties to have public hearings before installing traffic cameras and to provide evidence of a safety need. Cameras could be located only in documented high-risk areas. If they are in a fixed location, there must be signs advising drivers at least 500 feet, but no more than 1,000 feet, from the cameras. Citations would have to be reviewed by a law enforcement officer and records maintained for an annual report to the Legislature.
Klein also believes the Senate is more likely to agree with the House bill to scoop up the city revenue than to add a surcharge onto the cost of the citations.
In the Senate, Senate File 343, which would ban traffic cameras, has been voted out of the Judiciary Committee.
Representatives of cities with traffic cameras said HF 674 could open them to litigation because it’s at odds with an Iowa Supreme Court ruling over the programs.
Cedar Rapids, for example, wants more options when processing appeals from motorists who get traffic camera-generated citations.
Amanda Grieder, a manager for the Cedar Rapids Police Department, told a House Appropriations subcommittee the bill doesn’t square with the state Supreme Court ruling that was critical of the appeal process. Cedar Rapids is developing a form for people to use if they want to appeal online rather than in-person.
Although the bill came out of the Public Safety Committee on a 21-0 vote, and is very similar to legislation that was approved by the House last year, its fate is uncertain.
Subcommittee member Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, signed off on it to keep the process moving but opposes the use of traffic cameras.
Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, a former police officer, called traffic cameras a tool to reduce traffic collisions. Although the bill’s language needs to be “cleaned up,” he thinks passage of HF 674 would create stability rather than see the Legislature trying to deal with the issue every year.
The third subcommittee member, Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, who has voted to ban the cameras and for another plan to regulate them, said he doesn’t know how he will vote if HF 674 gets to the House floor.
While its red-light cameras have remained active, Cedar Rapids has not issued speeding tickets from cameras on Interstate 380 since April 2017 amid court battles, but Mayor Brad Hart said recently the I-380 cameras would be turned back on “soon.”
The city, which recently adjusted its contract with the camera vendor to keep more of the traffic fine revenue, projects generating $4.7 million from the cameras in fiscal 2020, paying the vendor about $1.7 million.