A controversial bill to allow red light enforcement cameras at intersections in Connecticut gained backing from a second key legislative committee Monday — the finance committee, which voted 31-19 to approve it — even though some legislators have begun expressing impatience with the fact that no one really knows exactly what they are supporting.
Monday’s vote advanced the measure toward further consideration in another committee — the planning and development committee, probably — and then, presumably, votes in the full state House and Senate.
Finance committee co-chairwoman Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, called the bill a “work in progress” and urged that it be moved forward for more work to further refine it. Other supporters echoed those words.
Probably no bill during the 2012 legislative session, which is set to conclude in just over three weeks, has been referred to more often than the red-light camera bill as a “work in progress” — in arguments by legislators asking that it be approved by a committee, and moved forward in the process so that its language can eventually be worked out.
As now written, the bill would enable 19 cities and towns — those with a minimum population of 48,000 — to enforce red light compliance with cameras. The municipalities would issue tickets by mail to the registered owners of the violating vehicles, imposing a $50 fine, plus an additional $15 administrative fee.
When the bill cleared the transportation committee a month ago, that panel’s co-chairman called it a “work in progress” and said the list of eligible cities and towns probably would be pared down to “maybe six or seven communities that really came out strong for this.” In the weeks since then, the wording of the bill has remained the same — even though, again, supporters on the finance committee said there are “discussions” and “negotiations” underway that will pare it back to a smaller number that varied from speaker to speaker from “two or three” up to a half dozen.”
Only unofficial information has been available in hallways of the Capitol complex in Hartford, but so far the speculation is that six municipalities — whose officials have been pushing hard for authorization to use enforcement cameras at intersections in their towns or cities — will be included in the bill, if it is indeed pared back. Those six are said to be: New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Manchester, Hamden, and East Hartford.
Opponents of the bill cited concerns about intrusion by “Big Brother” on citizens’ privacy or said the cameras would make violators out of law-abiding citizens by ticketing them if they make a safe near-stop for a right turn on red, but do not completely cease motion.
Proponents said that everyone in society by now is aware they they are on camera when they go through a toll booth or enter a convenience store, and the cameras at dangerous intersections are an acceptable price to pay for safer streets.