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October 7, 2011

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William Leiter (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) 


SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Senate Bill 29, legislation that would have protected the rights of drivers by regulating “red-light cameras.” The measure’s author, State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), called the veto “a lost opportunity to help restore public trust in the purpose and operation of red-light cameras by bringing accountability and fairness to the process.”

“I think we can keep folks safe and still give the driving public a fair shake. I’m sorry the Governor didn’t agree,” Simitian added. 

The cameras increasingly are a subject of debate in cities around the state as drivers question their accuracy, and courts question the validity of the photographic evidence. Simitian says he does not oppose red-light cameras per se, but “they raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process. I believe traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue.”

Senate Bill 29, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support (38-0 in the Senate, 70-4 in the Assembly), would have protected drivers’ rights by:

• Prohibiting the use of red-light cameras for the purpose of raising revenue;
• Requiring a demonstrated safety need;
• Requiring local jurisdictions to follow state standards in the placement and operation of cameras;
• Requiring adequate signage to notify drivers when red-light cameras are in use;
• Prohibiting so-called “snitch tickets” (i.e., an innocent ticket recipient may not be required to identify another driver in order to clear an inaccurate/misdirected ticket); and,
• Making it easier for a wrongfully ticketed driver to get a ticket cleared.

Simitian’s proposal would have put California at the cutting edge of a growing national problem. Pedro Morillas, legislative director of the California Public Interest Research Group, said that SB 29 “would have created some of the strongest taxpayer safeguards in the country against bad proposals to privatize red-light enforcement.”

The legislation was a reintroduction of a bill Simitian authored last year that originated in his annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. San Jose resident Vera Gil suggested the legislation after receiving multiple tickets from red-light cameras for a car in Southern California she does not own and has never driven.

Based on the difficulty she experienced challenging the tickets, Gil proposed a law requiring improved policies and procedures for red-light camera citations.

“Discussion of the legislation over the past two years,” Simitian said, “confirmed my initial suspicion that Ms. Gil’s case was just the tip of the iceberg.”  The issue comes up frequently when Simitian hears from constituents.

“I’m really disappointed by the governor’s decision not to sign this bill,” said Gil. “People who get tickets for someone else’s car need a way to straighten things out. In my case, the license plate was one letter different than mine. I understand how that mistake happens, but it took weeks and weeks to clear-up. There was no information on who to call. I think that the cameras are helpful, but a ticket can be a real thorn in the side of the person who receives it mistakenly.”

To learn more about SB 29, visit