The Maryland General Assembly passed speed camera reform legislation (SB 350) on April 3. The bill had the support of MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and AAA Mid-Atlantic and was the result of two years of work. Similar legislation died on the last day of the 2013 Session. The key components of SB 350 include:
- Prohibits a local jurisdiction from making a vendor’s fee contingent on a per-ticket basis on the number of citations issued or paid (the so-called “bounty system”) – existing contracts may continue for no more than 3 years
- Requires each local jurisdiction with a speed camera program to create an “ombudsman” to respond to citizen questions and concerns and void erroneous violations without a citizen having to go to court
- Requires the Maryland Police Training Commission to compile and make publicly available an annual performance report for each local speed camera program
- Defines “school zone” in State law to mean an area within 1/2 mile of a K-12 school where students are walking or bicycling to school, or being picked up or dropped off
- Prohibits a local jurisdiction from issuing citations when placing a camera in a new location until at least 15 calendar days after required signage is installed
- Requires speed camera signage to comply with State Highway Administration standards
- Requires each local jurisdiction with a speed camera program to designate a program administrator to oversee the program and participate in a best practices training course at least once every two years
- Requires a local jurisdiction’s contract with a speed camera vendor to contain certain penalty and cancellation clauses if the vendor submits a certain percentage of erroneous violations for review or violates the law
- Requires that the annual calibration of a speed camera be conducted by an independent calibration laboratory that is selected by the local jurisdiction and is unaffiliated with the manufacturer of the speed camera system
- Clarifies that a duly authorized law enforcement officer must review every issued citation
April 3 Baltimore Sun coverage included reactions from different stakeholders. Most were positive on the bill:
“I’m a hard-liner on this issue, but we got 85 percent of what we wanted,” said Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who is against the cameras and was the lead sponsor of the Senate bill. …
A supporter of the cameras, Del. James Malone, also a Baltimore County Democrat, said the compromise took into account the views of both sides. “If you love speed cameras, you’ll love this bill. If you hate speed cameras, you’ll love this bill,” said Malone, the House sponsor. …
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office issued a statement saying he intends to sign it. “With public safety being among our top priorities, we expect the Governor to sign the legislation as it ensures the integrity of the speed camera program while also building on our efforts to keep Marylanders safe on our roads,” said Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for O’Malley. …
“Obviously, passage of this bill is a huge step in the right direction,” [AAA Mid-Atlantic governmental affairs manager Ragina Cooper-Averella] said. “It’s a huge victory.”
The article also included favorable comments from House Environmental Matters Committee Chairman Maggie McIntosh and the offices of Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. The article also noted some critical responses:
Ron Ely, chairman of the anti-speed-camera Maryland Drivers Alliance, said the bill didn’t go far enough.
“This bill is reform in name only,” Ely said. “The bill does not provide true external oversight. The so-called ‘ombudsman’ is modeled after a role in Montgomery County, which is really a program manager. This person’s allegiance will be to the program. This will not be an independent advocate for the public in reality.”
Del. Warren Miller, a Howard County Republican who voted against the bill, lamented that the legislation does not require audits of the systems. …
“There’s something good in there, but there’s a lot of bad,” Miller said of the legislation.
The article noted that Senator Brochin intended to revisit the speed camera issue next year with proposals to limit cameras to areas with 1/4 mile of a school and require that the ombudsman be confirmed by the legislative body of the local government. Senator Brochin had proposed the two changes as part of this year’s legislation but they were amended out of the bill by the General Assembly.