Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

June 2, 2013

Editorial: Camera legislation raises questions

It’s a chicken-and-egg question that could end up costing Michigan motorists hundreds, could make a lot of money for an Arizona-based camera company and raises issues about the influence of lobbyists and politics on law-making at the state level.

And in the long run, the technology that is at the root of the whole thing is being widely questioned elsewhere and may not even pass judicial muster.

State Rep. Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City has co-introduced legislation that would give Michigan communities the authority to install traffic cameras — also known as “red-light cameras” — at intersections.

Schmidt, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he proposed the bill to give communities another option for improving public safety.

What’s odd, however, is that about a month before the legislation was introduced, a well-connected political lobbyist whose firm works for an Arizona-based camera technology company put in a call to Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley to talk about traffic cameras.

The lobbyist, Lansing-based Patrick Meyers, told Bensley the cameras might soon be allowed in Michigan under yet-to-be-introduced legislation. “He wanted to know where we are on this,” Bensley said.

Around the same time, Bensley said, undersheriff Nathan Alger had heard from Schmidt’s office about traffic cameras.

The idea that a lobbyist was calling about state legislation that had yet to be introduced “... made me ask, ‘Who’s driving this thing, anyways?’ Is there a need for this in Michigan? Where are the statistics?” Bensley said.

Those are good questions. And they raise the issue of how laws get made and who writes them — lawmakers or the people who stand to make millions off the process.

Schmidt, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he introduced the legislation to give communities another option for improving public safety.

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