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Colorado lawmakers trying again to ban red-light, speed cameras

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DENVER — Colorado lawmakers will take another look at banning speeding and red-light cameras, an idea that has had bipartisan support but that municipalities and law enforcement staunchly oppose.

Critics of the cameras call them revenue generators that don't improve public safety. But supporters praise the devices, saying they prevent accidents at busy intersections and aid short-staffed police departments.

Last year, the proposal failed despite support from legislative leaders in each chamber. This year, Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a lawmaker from Severance, said he believes the political environment is more favorable because legislators aren't running for re-election.

"I'm doing really well getting support, bipartisan support in the House and the Senate so we're very encouraged about it," he said. The bill has yet to be introduced, but Humphrey said it will be identical to last year's.

Ten states prohibit the use of photo radar or red-light camera enforcement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Colorado, ten cities use the traffic-enforcement cameras. A legislative analysis of the bill last year estimated that the cities would lose about $16.1 million in revenue from fines during the first year of a ban.

The Colorado Municipal League, which represents more than 250 communities in the state, says it should be up to cities and towns to decide whether they want the cameras. Police chiefs who testified against the bill last year warned lawmakers there would be traffic fatalities as a result of a ban.

Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri said the use of the cameras should be restricted, but not banned outright. He points to a busy intersection in Commerce City, which he represents, where the cameras are useful because there is no safe spot for a police office to park and monitor the area.

Sen. Rollie Heath, a Democrat from Boulder, one of the cities that use the cameras, said government officials there previously urged him to oppose a ban.

"The city of Boulder felt very strongly that this was not a revenue-raising thing, this was a safety issue," Heath said.

Humphrey said he's willing to consider amendments to his bill if it gets him more votes. For instance, he said he would be open to giving local voters the option to decide whether to keep the cameras.


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