By Paul Henry
February 18, 2017
Since 2011, I’ve gone to the legislature to convince them to do away with red light cameras. Every year, I face an armada of government-funded lobbyists and quasi-government lobbyists such as the Florida League of Cities. Government lobbying government is big business, with 288 private lobbyists lobbying the Legislature to the tune of $12 million of our tax dollars. Then there are camera vendor lobbyists, who have decreased over time as taxpayer-funded lobbyists have increased.
A February 17 story in the Orlando Sentinel highlights the problem I face. Unlike taxpayer-funded lobbyists, I ask for donations and cannot use camera revenue. The story reported that “often local governments are outgunned at the Capitol, where special interests armed with a team of lobbyists can push the state to preempt local measures they don’t like.” That’s not the case with red light cameras, where there are 68 lobbyists registered. Of the 68, only 4 were lobbying for camera repeal. Of these 68, 36 are funded by our tax dollars, including 7 state or local employees, plus 16 between the taxpayer-supported League of Cities and Association of Counties, who each paid an outside firm on top of their 7 in-house lobbyists. Nearly every entity lobbying against repeal was making money from the cameras. The City of Orlando uses 5 private lobbyists and 1 government employee.
Since 2011 I’ve presented facts such as crash data, short yellow lights via a DOT rule change, my experience as a mainly traffic enforcement officer and supervisor, and the slap in the face to American justice of a guilty until excused law. None of this has trumped the over $50 million the state takes in via the scheme and the millions made by greedy local governments. People like Mayor Dyer appear to have an open door to meet with legislators, while I have to beg for appointments and am on occasion put off despite weeks of prior notice.
Senate Bill 178 is a prime example of how just one person can wreck the democratic process. Red light cameras when given the rare chance of a public vote fail about 90 percent of the time. In cities like Brooksville, local officials sued citizens to keep them from voting. Americans inherently know forcing confessions is un-American, being ticketed for missing a cycle by as little as 1/10 of a second is improper, and turning law enforcement into a for-profit venture is a bad idea. The Senate bill was set to be heard by the Transportation Committee and three other committees. The committee was down a member due to the illness of Sen. Hukill, so only four members heard the bill. A tie vote of 2-2 meant it did not advance. Had all members been there it may well have been a 3-2 vote. The House bill continues to advance robustly. This is indicative of the will of the people and of the continued logjam for representation in the Senate, which has blocked the camera ban for several sessions now.
Paul Henry’s bio
Paul worked in law enforcement in Florida for 25 years as a Deputy Sheriff, then a State Trooper, traffic homicide investigator, Sergeant, and finally Lieutenant on the Florida Highway Patrol. He has investigated thousands of traffic crashes to include red light violation crashes. Paul has never received a ticket from a red light camera and opposes them since they are revenue generators using a smokescreen of safety via an un-American law that compels confessions. Since 2013, Paul has advocated against red light cameras for the Liberty First Network, libertyfirstfl.org, a grassroots non-profit that takes up the cause of liberty and freedom and provides a voice in Tallahassee for many Floridians that their local governments do not provide.