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New bill aims to take money from Ohio cities that use traffic cameras

The goal of the bill is to deduct the funds municipalities get from the state by the same dollar amount they collect in fines.

The State is once again trying to put the brakes on speed cameras, but this time, they're not looking to ban them. They're looking to hit the cities who use them where it hurts: their pockets.

House Bill 410 has a pretty simple premise: Take away State money from cities with traffic camera programs. The Bill, which recently passed the Ohio House and is now driving to the Senate, asks municipalities to prove whether they truly believe speed and red light cameras are for safety, or just a money grab.

"If it's about safety let it be about safety," Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who co-sponsored the bill, said. "If the cities chose to rely on that form of revenue, they don't need our revenue."

The goal of the bill is to deduct the funds municipalities get from the state by the same dollar amount they collect in fines. It also requires civil traffic violations to be held in municipal court and not a mayor’s court something Seitz says gives drivers due process.

"As it is right now, cities have administrative hearings, where an employee of the city sits there and says, ‘Well, I looked at the tape and you're guilty.'"

And the Ohio Department of Transportation is following right behind the bill sponsors when it comes to speed cameras. It recently sent letters to several municipalities saying they can't put traffic enforcement signs or cameras on State highways.

"I think they're concerned, that generally speaking, townships have no authority on interstates to issue tickets," Seitz said.

Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) is against measures like these, but not because he supports the cameras. In fact, he fought to get them out of Cleveland. However, he says the bill steps on the toes of municipalities.

"It's a way for big government to reign in small government that they feel is out of control," he told us.

That's the reason several critics oppose it, including Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). He points to a 2017 study in Governing magazine, which shows localities in Ohio had the second largest loss of state funding in the country.

But Rep. Seitz says the bill has them covered.

"Yes, we're taking away money from Cities that get money from red light cameras," he said. "But we're putting it right back into road safety by giving that money to ODOT.”"

The ODOT mandate was set to start Aug. 3, but was postponed because it caused quite a stir among municipalities. So ODOT has come up with some changes which should be announced in a week or so.

In the meantime, we for the Senate to vote on House Bill 410.