Bill Would Hamstring Bus Safety Audio Recorders

Andrea Mansfield, on behalf of MACo, testified in opposition to SB 199, Transit and Transportation Service – Audio Recordings – Requirements and Limitations, to the House Environmental and Transportation Committee on March 24, 2016.

This bill would establish several new restrictions on the use of audio recording devices on state and local public transit. The bill would require that recording devices be under the exclusive control of the vehicle operator and activated by the operator only in the event of an incident involving public safety that requires documentation.

A number of local governments operate transit vehicles, some of which are equipped with audio recording devices that engage when the bus is in operation and disengage when the bus is not operating. The systems operate in this manner largely to protect the safety of the bus passengers and the bus operators.

Under SB 199, counties would need to retrofit audio systems already installed on buses to meet the new criteria that these systems are under the control of the operator.

From the MACo testimony,

This would not only be a costly endeavor for a number of counties, but could also jeopardize the safety of the operator and the public riding the bus. The additional step required to activate the recording device would be another distraction in a situation where the driver is already dealing with a public safety issue occurring on a moving bus.

Local transit systems also have protocols in place for specifying designated areas to be recorded, criteria for signage, and who may access the video. When verifying an incident, the footage may be used by transit staff, the police, or the State’s Attorney – following a strict chain of command involving supervisors and public safety officials.

MACo believes counties have proper protocols in place for addressing the issues raised in SB 199. They strike the right balance for a public transit system and serve to keep the systems safe for the public ridership. Therefore, MACo urges the Committee to give SB 199 an UNFAVORABLE report and allow counties to continue to regulate their transit systems in a manner that works for each individual jurisdiction instead of mandating restrictive statewide limitations.

This bill passed the Senate (44-0) on March 4, 2016.

For more on 2016 MACo Legislation, visit the Legislative Database.