Tags: Governor | McAuliffe | Virginia | red | light | camera

Red Light for Va. Gov. McAuliffe: Veto Override Looms

Image: Red Light for Va. Gov. McAuliffe: Veto Override Looms

Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 07:40 PM

By Kenric Ward, Watchdog.org

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's controversial veto of a driver-rights bill may not survive the end of the week.

Lawmakers from both parties are poised to override the Democrat, who rejected legislation that would give camera-ticketed motorists a second appeal.

"Any finding in a district court that an operator has violated a [traffic law] . . . shall be appealable to the circuit court in a civil proceeding," says House Bill 1040, reiterating state law.

The Virginia House of Delegates passed the measure unanimously. It cleared the Democrat-controlled state Senate 38-1.

But McAuliffe was conflicted.

Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, a leading red-light camera company, was one of his political supporters.

Redflex gave $25,000 to McAuliffe's inauguration, which took place in January, and $10,599 to his gubernatorial run, as well as $10,000 to the state Democratic Party. Redflex also gave $17,836 to McAuliffe's lieutenant governor and attorney general, and more for their inaugural festivities.

Red-light cameras are popular moneymakers with local officials. Watchdog.org reported that the state's largest city, Virginia Beach, netted $3.5 million through its ticket-issuing cameras in 2011.

Watchdog.org subsequently found that Virginia Beach illegally shortened the timing of its yellow lights to generate still more ticket revenue. Virginia Beach reset its signals in January 2013, shortly after Watchdog.org ran its story.

McAuliffe asserted the driver-rights bill would have clogged the courts. Yet officials say photo enforcement is already shaky. A Virginia Transportation Research Council study concluded:

"If the person fails to respond [to a mailed ticket], he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice.

"The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red-light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact."

The bill, introduced by Republican Delegate Johnny Joannou of Portsmouth, would grant drivers the right to contest $50 civil fines in court within 10 days.

Joe Bahen, an official with the National Motorists Association, said McAuliffe's veto "completely undermined the legislative intent."

The proposed law has the best hope for resurrection during an override session scheduled for Wednesday, said Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus.

"Judging from the previous votes, it has the best chance to be overridden of any of the governor's vetoes," Ryer told Watchdog.

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