- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two outgoing Republican members of Congress are making a last-ditch effort to leave their mark on the District, introducing a bill that would outlaw the city’s speed and red-light cameras.

Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas and Rep. Kerry L. Bentivolio of Michigan have introduced the ”Safer American Streets Act” that would outlaw automated traffic enforcement devices in the District.

The measure comes as Mr. Stockman prepares to leave office, having lost a bid for the GOP nomination for Senate in March to incumbent John Cornyn. Mr. Bentivolio, who last year proposed a similar measure before abandoning the legislation, is also departing the House after losing an August primary election.

The move was quick to draw the ire of Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative.

“These two Members, on their way out of Congress, have turned their focus away from their own constituents,” Ms. Norton said. “Whatever one’s views on the merits of traffic cameras, D.C.’s use of them is a quintessential local matter for the local elected government to decide, and not for the big foot of the federal government.”

In addition to targeting the devices in the District, the bill would withhold 10 percent of federal highway funds from any state in which the state or any municipality in it employs traffic cameras.

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Ms. Norton, citing statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, noted that such a bill would affect hundreds of jurisdictions in 24 states that use automated enforcement systems, including 495 jurisdictions that use red light cameras and 138 that use speed cameras.

The District’s red light cameras dole out $150 tickets at about 50 intersections, and the city employs speed cameras at more than 180 locations that fine motorists between $50-$250 depending on how fast they were traveling.

In addition, the District has dozens more cameras that fine drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians, who fail to clear crosswalks or intersections before a traffic signal changes, who don’t come to complete stops at stop signs and who drive oversized vehicles through neighborhood streets.

The camera program, which generated $171 million last year, has long been criticized as a money grab. The city’s Office of the Inspector General in September issued a 116-page report saying the ticketing system unfairly assumes motorists are guilty before proven innocent.

D.C. police resisted the claims made by the report, saying the program remains popular among residents.

The congressional bill to outlaw the devices, which was introduced Nov. 20, was accompanied by another bill introduced by Mr. Stockman alone that aims to “restore a public firearms range to the District of Columbia.” The text of that bill was not immediately available.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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