Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lawmakers Propose New Type of Photo Enforcement

The state legislature is considering creating an entirely new form of photo enforcement in Maryland. 

The bill identified as HB0749 in the House and SB0551 in the Senate would create "Bus Lane Monitoring Cameras" that would issue automated tickets to vehicles which enter lanes reserved for buses.

The bill sponsors are Senator Joan Carter Conway (D, Baltimore City) , and Delegates Robbyn Lewis (D, Baltimore City), Angela Angel (D, Prince George's County), and Delegate Brooke Lierman (D, Baltimore City). 

The fines under the bill would be issued to the vehicle owner, not the driver, and would carry a fine of $100 (more than twice the amount of a Maryland speed camera ticket).  The fiscal policy notes for the bill state :"Because fine revenues are paid to the jurisdiction in an uncontested case, local revenues increase."  Bus lane cameras are not used in many other jurisdictions, however New York City was able to collect $17million in revenues from bus lane cameras in 2016.

The hearing for the bill in the House Environment and Transportation Committee took place on February 22.  Proponents of photo enforcement have generally claimed that photo enforcement is necessary for safety.  However in this case the bills sponsor in the house cited the desire to move buses more quickly rather than a safety purpose, and did not present any evidence showing a safety benefit from such cameras.  It is possible the passage of such a new form of photo enforcement could open the door to other kinds of mass surveillance for non-safety related purposes.  The bill was praised by Montgomery County delegate Al Carr (D, Montgomery County), an anti motorist lawmaker who has promoted other new types of non-safety related photo enforcement last year which would ticket for the mere presence of certain types of vehicles, and he stated that he wanted to see bus lane camera in Montgomery County as well.

Two citizens appeared to support the bill in the house committee, both were speaking on behalf of groups representing cyclists, a form of transportation which is completely immune to photo enforcement systems since bikes do not have license plates.

The cameras would likely be used first in Baltimore City.  Baltimore has a troubled history with photo enforcement.  The city's speed camera program needed to be shut down in 2012 after it was discovered that erroneous speed camera citations had been systematically issued to innocent motorists.  As a further demonstration of the city's competence, on the first day the Baltimore City speed camera program was restarted, the city issued hundreds of erroneous duplicate citations.  In another case of gross incompetence, the city of Baltimore issued 2000 citations which had been "signed" by a deceased police officer, and these citations were never refunded.  The city has also been struggling with a recent scandal where Baltimore City Police Officers allegedly faked body camera footage to ensure convictions of defendants.

The Hearing for Senate Bill 551 in the Judicial Proceedings Committee will take place February 27.  The members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are: