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Updated Mar 11, 2013 - 5:45 pm

House OKs bill on photo radar on state highways

PHOENIX — State transportation officials will have to confirm there’s a
legitimate safety need before allowing cities to put photo enforcement on state
highways under a bill approved Monday by the Arizona House.

Cities will also have to show photo enforcement has improved safety if they
want to renew their state permits every three years.

Eight cities and towns now use photo radar on stretches of state highways, and
Casa Grande and Sierra Vista are working with the Arizona Department of
Transportation to add them. The state currently only reviews the engineering of
city-installed photo enforcement cameras on state highways before issuing

The bill is one of three in the House this session targeting photo radar. A
bill that would have banned it outright failed in February, while one limiting
the hours when process servers can track down people who ignore mailed notices
passed last week. That bill, however, was held in the Senate Judiciary committee
Monday after members sharply questioned the sponsor about the time limits.

The sponsor of the bill approved Monday, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said a
group of El Mirage residents complained about cameras on Grand Avenue, and she
learned after looking into the issue that ADOT can’t reject cameras and there’s
no statewide policy on their installation.

“So I thought it was a common sense, moderate approach to say that cities have
to prove that there’s a public safety reason to place a photo radar camera on a
state highway and that ADOT would determine if there is an improvement in public
safety” at renewal, Lesko said. “If they’re just putting them on for revenue
purposes, I don’t agree with that.”

A two-year state-run photo enforcement program ended when Gov. Jan Brewer
allowed the contract to expire in 2010. The Legislature has failed in recent
years to ban its use statewide.

In Prescott Valley, where two cameras are set up along state Route 69, Town
manager Larry Tarkowski said he’s not worried about the added rules if the bill
passes the Senate and is signed into law by Brewer.

“We can demonstrate that we have had a 30 percent reduction in injury
accidents since the employment of photo enforcement,” Tarkowski said. “Our
mayor and Town Council have supported photo enforcement for that reason alone.”

The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he really wants photo
enforcement eliminated, because in his view it is unconstitutional. But with
measures outlawing it failing again this year, he said the bills that are
advancing at least make it harder for cities and towns to set them up.

“That bill, even though I co-sponsored it, it’s not nearly as strong as I’d
like it to be,” Seel said of the bill that passed the House Monday. “Sometimes
here in the Legislature we do shades of gray.”

Besides Prescott Valley and El Mirage, the other municipalities using photo
enforcement cameras on state highways are Globe, Superior, Show Low, Star
Valley, Tucson and Chandler.


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