Efforts to regulate and restrict the use by Tennessee local governments of traffic camera surveillance systems may have ground to a halt for the year Wednesday. Members of the Senate Transportation Committee complained they were not involved in efforts by a House committee to draft a compromise, and voted to send the issue to a summer study committee.
“This Senate committee is asked to vote on these things, and apparently we have not participated in any of the study, and because of that, I’m going to move that we move this to a joint study committee so that the Senate members can have some input in this as well,” Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams.
“I don’t think we’ve been asked to even look at it,” said Sen. Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican who chairs the committee. “It’s a very complicated issue. I think local governments have an obligation to protect their communities and police officers to provide a safe condition for the motorists and pedestrians in their community…but I believe as legislators that we have an obligation to our citizens in the state to insure uniformity in implementation and operation of these cameras and violations are enforced in a fair manner.”
Sen. Tim Burchett, the Knoxville Republican who sponsored SB2918, said he was disappointed.
“I’m not a fan of these. I guess if I could, I’d outlaw them, but that doesn’t seem like the option or the will of the committee or the legislature,” he said.
Tracy promised to tackle the issue as soon as the legislature is out of session.
“I want to get started on this sometime in June or the first of July to start studying this issue. The citizens are concerned about it, and I’m concerned about it,” he said.
The sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Bill Harmon, R-Dunlap, appointed a committee in February to come up with compromise legislation in order to get a bill passed this year. That committee consisted mostly of government agency representatives.
Harmon began shepherding the bill through House committees last month, but those efforts hit a roadblock last week when the bill was “placed behind the budget,” meaning if there are funds to pay for the cost of the bill, it could be revisited after the budget is passed.
Some have questioned if the cameras are even constitutional. However, the attorney general issued more than one opinion, most recently in late February, indicating he see no legal problems with them.