MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Bill altering traffic safety camera use includes 75% discount for some violators

Feb 5, 2024, 7:00 PM

Image: A traffic camera in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood....

A traffic camera in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of SDOT/Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of SDOT/Flickr)

House Democrats have made substantial changes to House Bill 2384, expanding the use of automated traffic safety, including so-called red-light cameras. (A PDF of the bill can be viewed here.)

The bill was originally introduced to authorize the deployment of traffic cameras for detecting speed violations on state routes within city limits.

However, a substitute amendment approved by the House Transportation Committee on Monday added several controversial elements, including reduced penalties for low-income violators.

Key provisions of the original bill

The original version also aimed to make permanent a pilot program allowing traffic cameras to capture violations such as stopping at intersections or crosswalks, obstructing traffic, violating public transportation-only lanes, and traveling in restricted lanes.

The bill also proposed empowering non-commissioned officers and designated public employees to review infractions captured by traffic cameras and issue notices of infraction.

Currently, only law enforcement officers are authorized to review the infractions captured by red-light and school-zone cameras.

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Additionally, the bill proposed the adoption of an online ability-to-pay calculator, permitting cities and counties to process and grant requests for reduced fines or civil penalties related to traffic camera violations.

It restricted the use of generated revenue to traffic safety purposes and the operational costs of traffic camera systems.

Substitute bill highlights

The substitute bill, which passed the House Transportation Committee by 19-10 with all Republicans voting against the bill, made several modifications to the original bill.

Several lawmakers took issue a mandate for a 75% reduction in penalties for registered owners of vehicles receiving state public assistance who request reduced penalties.

Currently, only a judge had the authority to reduce a violators penalty.

“There are still concerns on how penalties are calculated. There are different percentages for who is committing the infractions,” said Sen. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, the ranking Republican on the committee.

Sen. Brandy Donaghy, D-Snohomish, proposed the substitute bill but did not address the new additions, including the reduction in penalties in her comments just before the committee convened in executive session and voted on the bill.

Because the changes were made after the initial public hearing, by rule, there was no public input allowed during the committee’s executive session.

Currently, only large cities have been allowed to have safety cameras to capture traffic violations. The bill originally set the city population of 90,000 people or more, but the substitute bill the committee approved drops the limit down to 10,000.

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The other substantial change made in the substitute bill regards who can issue the citations.

Currently, commissioned law enforcement officers are authorized to issue the citations based on their observations of camera video.

The committee approved the authorization for non-commissioned officers and designated public employees to review infractions and issue notices of infraction does not impede collective bargaining rights under current law.

The substitute bill also allows training for non-commissioned officers and designated public employees to be conducted by cities, counties, or local law enforcement.

Other amendments include:

  • Clarification of the definition of “school speed zone” for the purpose of traffic camera use.
  • Authorization for traffic cameras to be used in work zones, defined as areas with construction, maintenance, or utility work lasting at least 30 calendar days.
  • Requirement for traffic camera revenue use to include overburdened communities, with a minimum proportionate allocation based on the population share of residents in these areas.
  • Inclusion of the traumatic brain injury fee (currently $5) in traffic camera-related infractions, excluding reduced penalties for state public assistance recipients.
  • Modification of the prohibition on transit authorities disciplining employees for infractions identified by traffic cameras, applicable only to infractions authorized under the existing pilot program.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Bill altering traffic safety camera use includes 75% discount for some violators