On Tuesday, local government officials and municipal law enforcement fought hard to preserve red-light cameras which they argue provide needed revenue and make cities safer—but citizens arguing against the allegedly unconstitutional and ineffective devices fought harder.

Activists for transparency and constitutional rights were well received by the House Committee on Transportation, most of whose members are signed on as either authors or coauthors. The banter between lawmakers, including Democrat Chairman Terry Canales (Edinburg), and those testifying on the bill was markedly for moving the bill despite it having been left pending in committee.

House Bill 1631 by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) has over 100 coauthors in the Texas House, more than any other bill in the 86th Session so far. Nearly 40 people in total from across the state came to Austin to weigh in on the bill.

“This bill, I believe, as of yesterday has more cosponsors on it than any other bill before us as a body,” Stickland said in his opening remarks.

“I want to make three main points, and then I’m going to turn it over. Number one is the constitutionality. This definitely violates due process. Your accuser is the camera—you cannot face it in court. The most outrageous aspect of red-light cameras, to me, is how it turns our legal system upside down, and you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. I think this is a major problem. I’m also convinced, based on data, that this has nothing to do with public safety. In fact, it makes us less safe.”

In the Texas Senate, where the bill is being carried by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), a committee substitute introduced a grandfather clause last week that would allow contracts with the devices’ vendors to finish their terms before outlawing them as written before January 1 of this year—a measure activists believe State Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) demanded prior to granting Hall a hearing.

Some of those testifying in the House alluded to the Senate bill’s grandfather clause, asking instead for House members to consider the vast list of lawmakers supporting the outright ban, sans grandfather clause.

Texas Scorecard was informed earlier this morning, however, that Hall requested his amendments be pulled and that the Transportation committee in the Texas Senate consider the bill as originally written, the version identical to Stickland’s in the House.

It is unclear when the House version will be brought back before the committee for a vote. Should it pass, Stickland has also secured most members of the House Calendars committee and a majority of lawmakers on the floor, the bill’s likely path forward.

Momentum appears to continue to swell behind the reform, and Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he will support a ban on the devices should it reach his desk.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.

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