In what may be the final act in one of the session’s most interesting story lines, the Texas Senate has finally passed a bill that will ban the use of red-light cameras in the state.
House Bill 1631 by Republican State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (Bedford) has been on a wild ride through the 86th Texas Legislature. Famously known for being a representative who kills bad bills, Stickland worked early and diligently to earn the support of colleagues from across the state and party lines to back his commonsense reform. The bill donned the signatures of more than 100 coauthors when it passed out of the Texas House earlier this month.
Banning red-light cameras, the traffic enforcement devices wildly unpopular with Texans all across the state, seemed like a slam dunk for lawmakers to accomplish this session. The issue was prominently featured in races during last year’s primary and general election campaigns, and Gov. Greg Abbott was a vocal opponent of the cameras’ usage on social media.
The bill’s popularity, however, did not deter some from trying to kill the bill before it was passed out of the upper chamber with more than two-thirds of the chamber in support.
During debate, Sen. Jose Menendez (D–San Antonio) offered a floor amendment dealing with cameras that capture motorists who do not stop for a school bus. Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) rose to suggest that any amendments added may result in the bill being killed this late in the session.
“Are you asking that I not put my amendment on because it would kill the bill?” Menendez asks.
“Yes,” Nichols responded.
The amendment fell, with 10 ayes and 21 nays.
From there, Senator Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), the bill’s sponsor, moved to suspend the rules to hold both the second and third reading of the bill. Hall also carried the bill’s companion legislation where it wavered back and forth between an outright ban on the cameras and the version Stickland was able to get off the House floor. The bill passed Friday contains a provision grandfathering in contracts renewed or established prior to last year.
Nichols insisted throughout the legislative process, though, that most of the contracts currently in use across the state contain a force majeure clause, effectively rendering them void should legislation like this pass. And it finally did.
“Sen. Hall, you are recognized—Jonathan Stickland can’t believe it—on third reading and final passage,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says to Hall.
“I move final passage on House Bill 1631 to abolish red-light cameras in Texas,” Hall says.
The bill passed with bipartisan support, 23 ayes and 8 nays.
Five Democrats supported the move, siding with Stickland, Hall, and bill cosponsor State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) rather than with the majority of their Democrat caucus. The Democrats supporting the bill were State Sens. Chuy Hinojosa (McAllen), Eddie Lucio Jr. (Brownsville), Royce West (Dallas), John Whitmire (Houston), and Judith Zaffirini (Laredo). Estranged Republican State Sen. Kel Seliger (Amarillo) maintained his commitment to local officials and bureaucrats over taxpaying constituents again, a theme he has followed all session long, voting in opposition to banning the devices.
The Red Light Camera Bill passes the Texas Senate! Thank you to the author of the bill @RepStickland and Senate sponsor @SenatorBobHall and co-sponsor @TeamBettencourt. This Bill prohibits the use of photographic traffic signal enforcement systems. #TXlege pic.twitter.com/qVsIIBagEk
— Texas Senate GOP (@TexasSenateGOP) May 17, 2019
“We did it!” Stickland told Texas Scorecard. “After years of clawing to get our constitutional rights back, we are victorious! The red-light company’s reign of tyranny has finally come to an end, and liberty has been restored to the people of Texas!”
Stickland tweeted Abbott to ask for “a quick signature” immediately following the Senate’s approval.
Hall had high praise for his House colleague’s efforts, saying the following in an official press release:
“After years of effort by scores of Texans, I am pleased to announce that the Texas Legislature has finally passed the bill that will prohibit red-light cameras in Texas. The bill will also prohibit counties from using unpaid red-light tickets to block vehicle registration. The passage of this bill is a major victory for Texans. No longer will Texans have their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments violated by unconstitutional tickets. Also, highway safety will be improved. I am truly honored to have worked with Representative Stickland to pass this historic bill.”
Hall and Stickland, two of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, have both passed their first bills of the session, which is now in its final days.
Abbott has consistently indicated he supports the bill, which now heads to his desk for a signature. Having secured support from more than two-thirds of the Senate members on Friday, it will become law across the state immediately following Abbott putting pen to paper.