By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will sign a bill to limit how municipalities can use red light and speed cameras, said his spokesman, Rob Nichols.
“We don’t have the bill yet, so I don’t have a sense of timing,” he wrote in an email. “But the governor will sign it.”
Senate Bill 342 was passed by the House on Dec. 10, but not before adding two amendments — one to require a report of texting while driving violations as part of the Legislature’s future consideration for making it a primary violation, and the other to preserve the right of citizens to vote on banning red light and speed camera measures in their own cities.
The Senate concurred on the amendments Dec. 11 and sent the bill to the governor. It will go into effect 90 days after it’s signed.
Cities and other jurisdictions who use the cameras said the provisions would essentially kill use of the devices, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue and increased accidents. Proponents of the bill said the cameras were all about the money, not safety.
During debate on the bill, Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, said it was “the next best thing to a complete ban that prevents cities from scamming drivers under the guise of safety.”
But even without the bill, a pending Supreme Court case could significantly alter the way the cameras are used.
The primary issue before the court is whether a city’s administrative process of issuing civil violations for running red lights and speeding violates the Ohio constitution, which grants judicial authority solely to the courts.
Bradley Walker, who brought the suit against the city of Toledo, asked that all fines collected over the past six years — the statute of limitations — be returned if he should prevail. That could be as much as $100 million, according to filings in the case.
Cities are facing not only the loss of future income from the cameras as a result of Senate Bill 342 but could also be looking at refunding all the money collected from them over the past six years.
The Ohio Municipal League said it hasn’t yet heard of any cities who might want to mount a legal challenge.