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Ohio Supreme Court: Traffic camera fine revenue can reduce state funding

The ruling responded to a lawsuit brought by Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland challenging the state requirements.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Reducing state funding to local municipalities by the amount those communities collected through the use of traffic cameras doesn't violate the state Constitution, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court also upheld the constitutionality of a law requiring that municipalities must pay an advance deposit to cover court costs related to enforcing the ticket program.

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The court’s unanimous decision found the 2019 law creating those requirements doesn't conflict with the Ohio Constitution’s provision governing communities’ home rule. The ruling responded to a lawsuit brought by Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland challenging the state requirements.

In arguing that the law was unconstitutional, attorneys for those communities said state lawmakers were trying to “make photo enforcement programs prohibitively expensive and cumbersome to operate.”

In its ruling, the court said that, with limited exceptions, the Ohio Constitution doesn't require lawmakers to appropriate money to municipalities. In addition, the Constitution "does not create a specific right for a municipality to receive local-government funds from the state,” wrote Justice Sharon Kennedy.

In past rulings, the court has upheld the overall right of municipalities to use traffic cameras to catch speeders. Camera-generated tickets are key source of revenue for some towns, between 20 and 50% of the budget of  Newburgh Heights, depending on the year. In Lindale—a town with just over 100 residents—fines, licenses and fees generate around 90% of the budget.

Newburg Heights Mayor Gigi Traore told 3News she is "disappointed" by the ruling but will be stopping the use of automated traffic cameras, adding she's preparing for new ways to generate revenue. Village Police Chief John T. Majoy also said he doesn't believe the ruling affects the use of hand-held cameras by police officers, but as of now we're seeking more clarification on that front.

3News' Mark Naymik contributed to this story.

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