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CALIFORNIA - DOWNEY: Lost opportunity

By DAVE DOWNEY North County Times
For the second year in a row, a California governor has vetoed legislation that sponsors said would have reined in red-light camera abuses.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed on Friday legislation by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, that would have established statewide standards for the cameras.
"I think we can keep folks safe and still give the driving public a fair shake," the obviously disappointed senator from Northern California said in a statement. "I'm sorry the governor didn't agree."
Simitian termed 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."
Brown suggested in his terse veto message that Sacramento had no business establishing statewide standards. He said decisions about the cameras' operation should be left to local elected officials.
But Simitian noted that the devices increasingly have become the focus of debate across the state about their accuracy and fairness.
That certainly is the case in San Diego and Riverside counties, where several communities operate red-light cameras. There is a move among residents in Murrieta to put the issue to a public vote.
In response to the rising volume of protest, Simitian introduced Senate Bill 29 earlier this year.
It soared through the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. The bill passed by votes of 38-0 in the Senate and 70-4 in the Assembly.
The bill would have:
  • Prohibited using red-light cameras to raise money.
  • Required cities to demonstrate that the devices address a specific safety problem.
  • Established standards for the cameras' placement and operation, and for signs announcing their presence.
  • Prohibited so-called "snitch" tickets, preventing innocent ticket recipients from having to identify the correct drivers in order to clear their misdirected tickets.
According to Pedro Morillas, legislative director for the California Public Interest Research Group, the legislation would have "created some of the strongest taxpayer safeguards in the country" against red-light camera abuses.
You may recall that about this time last year, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed another bill with the potential to change the red-light camera culture.
Although it did not directly deal with the devices, it addressed one of the most frequent traffic violations the cameras record: right turns on red without coming to a complete stop.
That bill would have left intact the $500 fine for running a red light, for those who blow straight through intersections, while cutting in half the penalty for the much-less-dangerous rolling right turn.
Call staff writer Dave Downey at 951-676-4315, ext. 2623.

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