State lawmakers moved Tuesday to block plans by Gov. Janet Napolitano to roll out photo radar enforcement throughout the state.
On a 3-2 party-line vote, the Senate Transportation Committee approved legislation to prohibit any type of photo enforcement system on state roads to detect speed violators.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said he doesn't buy arguments by Napolitano that photo enforcement makes highways safer. And Gould said he believes the real reason the governor wants the Arizona Department of Public Safety to deploy 170 photo radar cameras, both mobile and fixed, is to generate revenue.
But Gould isn't counting on Napolitano to sign SB1470, assuming it reaches her desk. He noted the governor's proposal to balance her spending plan next year is built on the state collecting $90 million in photo radar fines.
So he persuaded the panel to also approve SCR1032. It is identical to SB1470 in every respect except one: It is not subject to the governor's veto and instead puts the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide.
The panel also approved a third Gould-crafted measure as a backup. It spells out that if the state does use photo radar, tickets could be given only to those who are driving faster than what 85 percent of motorists normally travel.
Right now, DPS sets its photo radar cameras to catch anyone driving 11 miles per hour over the limit. On a highway posted for 55 mph, that would be 66 mph.
That measure, called SCR1033, also would bypass the governor if approved by lawmakers and go to the ballot.
The votes on the first two bills came over objections from DPS Lt. Bob Ticer who said photo radar systems create safer roads.
He cited the nine-month experiment in Scottsdale that set up fixed cameras along a section of Loop 101.
"This is technology that has been working," Ticer told lawmakers.
He said it also frees up patrol officers to look for other types of violations, including intoxicated motorists.
But Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, said the fallacy is that speed is the primary cause of mishaps. He said the prime causes are inattention or reckless activity.
"I don't believe that photo radar does any of the things you said, other than raise revenues," he told Ticer.
"We put those out there with the intent of getting people to slow down," he said. Ticer noted state law requires his agency to erect two signs ahead of any photo radar unit, one of which must be about 100 yards away.
Blendu remained unconvinced photo radar will create safer drivers. "Nothing changes people's behavior like a highway patrolman" pulling them over, Blendu said.
The governor's budget presumes the state will have 100 photo units in place during the coming budget year, each producing 13,000 paid tickets at an average fine of $157.