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Traffic Camera Debate Revived, Vote Delayed

Those foreign-owned companies that operate the roadway-violation monitoring devices “suck,” says House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower. In particular, they are “sucking (money) out of Sullivan County…out of Tennessee…out of the United States,” he said.

Attempts Tuesday and Thursday by numerous House members to attach amendments dealing with traffic cameras has slowed the progress of a bill originally meant to expand the services automobile clubs can legally provide.

Rep. Charles Curtiss, the Sparta Republican who is sponsoring the HB 2875, has resisted efforts to allow most of the amendments offered to be attached to the bill, but members continue to try to add traffic camera amendments to the bill. The parade of amendments led Curtiss today to put off consideration of the bill on the House floor for a second time this week.

So far, members have tried to attach roughly 10 amendments on to the bill relating to traffic cameras, but the only one that has successfully been attached up to this point has been an amendment sponsored by Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville. His amendment, approved on a vote of 86-7, prohibits the placement of traffic cameras on highways receiving state funding unless the location of the camera is approved by a county or municipal legislative body on two readings, caps fines at $50, and prohibits charging for court costs unless the ticket is actually challenged in courts. It also puts a ceiling of $50 on late fees per ticket.

McCord said he originally wanted to go farther, but that after talking with several members, they “felt local governments would be adequately responsible for the expansion and accountable to the public” with the amendment.

The move by McCord came just over two weeks after a compromise traffic camera regulation bill that had been gaining traction in the House was killed by a Senate committee. Members on that committee complained that they had not been part of the talks to shape the compromise House bill.

The House later defeated an amendment that would have put an outright ban on traffic cameras in the state.

That amendment was brought by a sheriff’s deputy, Rep. Charles Faulkner. A Republican from Luttrell, Faulkner said “if they were utilized for public safety, they would be in school zones…not on a four-lane stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere. They are using these things for revenue-generators, and that’s it.”

His amendment was defeated after Curtiss said he was afraid the amendment would cause the Senate to kill his bill.

The bill was soon thereafter delayed during debate of an amendment sponsored by House Republican leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol.

That amendment would have dealt with one traffic camera specifically near a town of about 1,000 that Mumpower said “sucked out…over a quarter million dollars a month” from the economy of East Tennessee, with more than half of that money going to the company that runs the camera, which is partially foreign owned.

“It’s not only sucking it out of Sullivan County, and it’s not only sucking it out of Tennessee, but it’s sucking it out of the United States,” Mumpower said, later adding that the tickets take money out local residents’ pockets and discourages tourists from returning to the area.

When other members indicated they would like to come forward with similar amendments, Curtiss asked that the bill be put off until Monday night before a vote could be taken on Mumpower’s amendment.

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