- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Legislature’s yearly effort to eliminate photo-based speed and red-light enforcement in Arizona appeared close to a small victory Thursday as the House joined the Senate in approving a bill banning photo radar on state highways.

The legislation that passed the House on a 32-26 vote will affect just two cities, Star Valley in Gila County and the western Phoenix suburb of El Mirage. The legislation needs a final Senate vote before heading to the governor because of a minor House amendment that removes a legislative intent clause.

The Legislature has regularly failed to pass bills banning photo radar statewide in recent years. Measures that would have required local votes to maintain photo enforcement and a statewide ban were rejected this session. The state itself does not operate photo enforcement systems.

The measure that passed Thursday, by Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, was intentionally narrow to increase its odds of survival. It drew opposition from all Democrats and two Republicans.

“I’m going to vote no on this bill, and I’m conflicted about it because I’m not a fan of photo radar,” said Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff. “But at the same time, my Republican constituents up in Star Valley, they don’t have police in their community, they have to rely on upon the local sheriff to police a main road that goes through their community. And they’ve had a real problem in the past with people driving excessive speeds through their community.”

During debate on the bill Thursday, Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, said a medical study done in Arizona after the state pulled photo radar from freeways in 2010 showed admissions to trauma centers doubled. “If we care about saving lives and saving taxpayer dollars, because most traumas are paid for by the taxpayers, we should have these cameras on our freeways,” said Meyer, a retire emergency room physician.

Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, pointed to studies in Peoria before that city stopped using photo enforcement. “They found out that they actually caused in some cases more accidents than they prevented and so the city of Peoria removed their lights,” said Gray, who supported the measure.

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