Texas lawmakers ban red light cameras; bill awaits governor’s signature

Texas lawmakers moved closer Friday to turning off red light cameras across the state.

The Senate, on a 23-8 vote, gave final approval to a measure that would prevent cities from continuing to run the cameras, sending the bill to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration.

“Our citizens have been waiting a long time to get rid of red light cameras,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, when announcing that it was time to consider the bill.

Supporters say the cameras make streets safer and generate needed money for communities and the state. Critics argue that the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to rear-end accidents. They have been in Texas since 2007.

On the table Friday was a proposal by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, carried in the Senate by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood.

“I am truly honored to be the torch bearer in this fight that started before I got here,” Hall said before the vote, praising the tenacity and years of work that Stickland — who stood on the Senate sidelines as the bill was debated and voted on — put into this measure. “It was a team effort.

“I thank every one of you for doing this,” he said. “The citizens will thank you.”

This is the first bill Stickland has passed through the Legislature since he took office in 2013.

“The bill to ban red light cameras just passed the Senate and is headed your way @GregAbbott_TX,” Stickland tweeted Friday. “Would love your quick signature on it so we can restore our Constitutional rights!”

Red light cameras

Vehicles entering intersections monitored by the cameras are photographed if they enter after the light has turned red. After an offense, a $75 ticket is mailed to the car’s owner.

Residents in several cities, including Arlington, already have voted to remove the cameras from their communities.

In Fort Worth, there are 58 red light cameras at 44 intersections. The city contracts with Verra Mobility, formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, to run the red light cameras.

An amendment added to the bill in the House lets cities keep operating the cameras until their contracts with vendors expire. Fort Worth’s red light camera contract expires in 2026.

But another amendment added in the House prevents county and state officials from refusing to register a vehicle because the owner has unpaid red light camera tickets.

Some Texas counties, such as Dallas, will flag accounts with unpaid red light tickets and prevent those vehicle registrations from being renewed until the tickets are paid.

In Tarrant County, Tax Assessor-Collector Wendy Burgess has said people who have a flagged account may go to any of the eight tax assessor collector offices and renew their registration in person, no matter how many unpaid red light tickets they have.

“The state can no longer block your vehicle registration for non-payment of a red-light camera ticket,” Kelly Canon, an Arlington woman who led the effort to remove red light cameras from her city years ago, wrote in a text. “Just TRASH YOUR TICKET!!!! It’s OVER!!”

Red light revenue

The Texas Comptroller’s office collected $19.7 million from red light camera ticket payments across the state last year.

The money goes to hospitals and toward regional emergency medical service. Some money may also be used by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for graduate-level medical education or nursing programs.

When asked about the potential loss of revenue, Hall said changes to other bills will make up the loss.

“I think you have a good bill and I think it has been a long time coming,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

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