Texas Lawmakers Move To Save Red Light Cameras

Texas lawmakers are taking steps to keep newly re-elected Governor Greg Abbott (R) from fulfilling a major campaign promise. Abbott, formerly the state’s attorney general, made outlawing red light cameras a priority — even going so far as to specify that the contracts used by local jurisdictions must be legislatively preempted (view pledge). Two of the state legislature’s leaders last week prefiled legislation that would protect the ability of local jurisdictions to continue using red light cameras for as long as they wish.

State Representative Ed Thompson (R-Pearland) and Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) came up with their own approaches to legislation that uses the language of “banning” cameras while at the same time giving cities plenty of time to lock in long-term contracts with private photo ticketing companies. Byron Schirmbeck, the Texas coordinator for Campaign for Liberty, pointed out that this is not the first time that lawmakers like Hall have moved to increase the use of cameras while styling the effort as a prohibition on camera use.

“Once again we see the same tricks and games coming from Austin,” Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. “Representative Thompson and Senator Hall’s bills give the photo radar industry everything they want and saddles Texans with red light cameras for decades and an increase in photo enforcement. Texans won’t stand for another attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.”

Although House Bill 262, introduced by Thompson, does say that a local authority may not use red light cameras, it would only prevent new installation in cities that do not have them as of June 2019. Any city that would like to continue using existing red light cameras would be allowed to do so under Thompson’s grandfather clause.