Traffic camera obsession at the Iowa Statehouse continues during this year's legislative session.
We long ago lost track of how many sessions have included time spent debating, but taking no action on this issue. It's uncertain if this year will produce anything more than additional talk. As of today, bills to both ban and regulate traffic cameras remain alive.
Our preference, as we have said before, is for speed and red-light cameras to remain legal traffic enforcement tools within a uniform set of rules, including fines, in the name of safety on roads.
We support a model for traffic cameras passed by the Senate, but not passed by the House, in 2017. That bill would have kept traffic cameras in place, but required local officials to justify placement of cameras on state and local roads and allowed the equipment only in high-risk and high-crash areas. Under the bill, money generated from traffic fines would have to be spent on road construction or public safety. In our minds, that represents a reasonable compromise.
A House bill under consideration this year is patterned along those lines, but would allow cities to retain only 40 percent of revenue produced by traffic cameras after expenses, with the rest going to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
Not surprisingly, cities oppose this proposed money grab by the state. We share their opposition.
If, as the House bill would require, the state wishes to make sure money produced by traffic cameras is, in fact, invested in public safety, fine, but local leaders made decisions to install traffic cameras in Sioux City and other cities in Iowa because they believed they make their local streets safer. Whatever revenue derives from these local decisions should be local, not state. Sioux City's money should stay in Sioux City; it shouldn't be sent to Des Moines.