DENVER — A ban on red-light cameras and speed-van enforcement passed its first test Wednesday in the Colorado Legislature.
But a long afternoon of testimony showed the topic is as divisive as ever. In Colorado, 12 cities use the traffic-enforcement cameras.
State lawmakers have been debating red-light cameras for years, and the question pits lawmakers against police agencies that insist the cameras improve public safety.
"What are we targeting here, public safety or another revenue source?" asked Rep. Dan Coram, R-Montrose.
The question came after hours of testimony from police and pedestrian advocates asking lawmakers not to ban the cameras.
"You can't tell us to do something and then take away the tools to do it," said Greenwood Village Police Cmdr. Dustin Varney.
The cameras have been in question in the wake of recent audits questioning the value of red-light cameras. A 2011 Denver audit found the cameras of use mostly to raise tax money for the city.
Public officials have chafed at the suggestion that the cameras are just there to make money. Public dislike of the cameras doesn't make them wrong, said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.
"Shoplifters don't like being caught either, but we're not banning cameras in 7-Elevens," Morrissey said.
The measure passed the House Transportation & Energy Committee Wednesday on a vote of 8-5. But the bill now heads to the committee that killed a similar ban last year.
A legislative analysis of the bill estimated that the cities would lose about $14 million in revenue from fines during the first year of a ban. Cities and counties oppose the bill.
Colorado may be pre-empted by an act of Congress proposed by one of Colorado's own.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Lakewood has suggested a nationwide ban on automated red-light and radar speeding cameras for traffic enforcement purposes.
"All of us are concerned with reducing accidents and reckless driving but it is not evident photo radar cameras improve highway safety, reduce accidents or improve traffic flow," Perlmutter said in a statement.
Introduced just this month, Perlmutter's proposal awaits a hearing.
House Bill 1098: http://bit.ly/1zI9wHu