Dayton mayor responds to lawmaker going after city’s traffic cameras

Like many Ohio motorists, state Rep. Bill Seitz doesn’t like traffic cameras — not one bit.

The long-time legislator authored an anti-traffic camera law that the Ohio Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional. Undeterred, the Cincinnati Republican crafted another bill designed to make it far more expensive for cities to use the cameras.

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Seitz and state Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, are sponsoring House Bill 410, which would require cities to file all traffic camera cases in municipal court and would reduce state funding to cities by the same amount cities collect in traffic camera revenue.

“They have to pay the filing fee, bring in a lawyer and prove their case in court. No more administrative hearings where some employee of the city sits there and the poor motorist has to, in effect, proove his innocence in order to be acquited of the civil citation,” Seitz said.

Under Seitz’ bill, the state will cut Local Government Fund money flowing to cities that use traffic enforcement cameras. “The mayor of Dayton has long protested that this is all about safety and not about revenue. I will take her at her word. Okay, we will make sure it is about safety and not about revenue because the LGF offset will take the profit out of policing for profit,” he said.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat running for governor, said “He doesn’t like the result from the Ohio Supreme Court so he’s ignoring it. It’s just another example of state government not allowing local communities make their own decisions.”

Ohio Municipal League Director Kent Scarrett said the league opposes the bill. “It seems to penalize those who are trying to employ technology and safety measures,” he said. “We think it’s not necessary and it just gets in the way for us to fund services in a predicable manner.”

Previously, Seitz pushed through a law that required cities using traffic cameras to station a full-time police officer with each camera in use; conduct a three-year traffic study before deploying a camera; give speeders a “leeway” before issuing tickets.

Related: Cities fear rise in accidents if traffic camera use ends

Dayton challenged the 2015 law in court.

In a 5-2 decision issued in July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that that law conflicts with cities’ home-rule authority. The Ohio Constitution gives municipalities self-governance powers as long as local ordinances don’t conflict with the state’s general laws.

Related: Dayton to activate red light cameras again

At the time of the supreme court ruling, Seitz promised that lawmakers would consider new legislation requiring cities go through municipal courts instead of an administrative process for tickets issued via traffic camera enforcement programs.

Seitz, who received a ticket when a camera caught him rolling through a right turn at a red light in Columbus, noted that lawmakers approved restrictions on photo enforcement cameras in 2006 and 2014 and voters in Cincinnati and Cleveland overwhelmingly approved limits or bans.

“It’s not just me. It’s my colleagues in the General Assembly. And it’s the people in the state of Ohio who have been given the opportunity to vote on it.”

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