Texas Legislature bills to eliminate red light cameras hit the brakes

Despite early momentum and bipartisan support, two bills to eliminate red light cameras have seen a slowdown this week after being left pending in committee.

Companion bills House Bill 1631 by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Senate Bill 653 by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, both attempt to outlaw traffic cameras. Austin currently has 10 red light cameras, and drivers found running red lights on the cameras are sent a $75 fine.

“It turns our system upside down because instead of the onus being on the government to prove you guilty, you have to prove your innocence,” Hall said. “Red light cameras take … a photograph of the license plate and then assume that the owner of the vehicle was the driver. The owner is forced to spend time and money to prove that they were not the person if that happens to be the case.”

Bills were filed to remove the cameras in 2015 and 2017. Stickland’s bill gained much bipartisan support, with more than 100 House members signing on. However, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, withdrew his support after the House Transportation Committee hearing. Canales’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Law enforcement officials and city officials testified against HB 1631 on March 26, including Austin Police Department Sgt. Michael Barger.