Photo-red bill as good as dead

The House of Delegates in a close 51-46 vote sent photo-red legislation back tothe body’s “killing ground committee” Monday,a move thatsponsor Delegate Michele B. McQuigg, R-51st District, said is meant toavoid a full House vote.

The bill narrowly passed 12-10 on Friday out of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

“It’s dead. And they didn’t even bother to listen to the merits of the bill,” said McQuigg, clearly upset. “They won’t hear it in committee. That’s how they kill stuff … or they’ll wait for the people who are for it aren’t there so they can kill it again. There are lots of games that are played, and unfortunately the public business isn’t being done.”

The merits are, she said:traffic light monitoring can reduce red-light runners by as much as 40 percent. In Virginia there were 4,774 crashes last year caused by runners, with 13 fatalities and 3,600 injuries, she said.

The House is “evidently not” interested in fair debate on those merits, she said, despite Speaker William J. Howell’s promise to ensure fairness in the House’s deliberations.

Howell resented questions that his leadership played a part in it. “I don’t think it’s too smart of you to ask that,” he told a reporter.

Delegate Vivian Watts, D-39th District, of Fairfax said Democrats will call for a halt to this cutting offof debate on bills before the fullHouse. She said bills should only be re-referred to committee after the floor debate shows how issues were missed, not to avoid discussion or a vote.

She joked there should be a “photo-red” bill that takes photos of the House electronic voting board, which showed urban legislators waiting to vote for the bill until the margin of defeat was enough.

“It was your guy [Delegate L. Scott] Lingamfelter who cut off debate [in committee],” Howell pointed out.

Howell was referring to Lingamfelter calling for the “pending question”in committee,which ended a discussionthat was growingnegativetoward the bill Friday.

Delegate Clarke Hogan, R-60th District, who voted against the bill in committee, made the motion to send the bill back to committee. “I guess he thinks he’s got enough people to switch their votes to have another result,”said Lingamfelter, who sits on the committee and isa co-patron of the bill. “You can’t take any of this stuff personally … sometimes really good bills don’t make it through,” he said.

Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, R-1st District, of Scott County was one votein committee that switched in favor of the bill, but proponents said it appears he has switched again. Kilgore, twin brother of Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, was among those who voted to send it back to committee.

Two other yes votes on committee, Delegates Clifford Athey, R-18th District, and Robert Bloxom, R-100th District, did not take part in the full House vote.

McQuigg’s bill would allow photo-red cameras to be used by localities across the state. Fairfax County and a few other jurisdictions already use them, and McQuigg has sought the expansion for Prince William and Manassas.

Opponents say the cameras have been used to make money for localities like Washington, D.C. The bill needs “substantial rework” before it can be passed, said Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison, R-52nd District, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. There are important constitutional protections lacking in the bill, he said.

For example, the punishment is directed at the owner of the vehicle rather than the driver, and the chance that the wrong person could be ticketed needs to be resolved, he said.

On a point made in committee — that the wrong person can check a box to say they were not operating the vehicle — Rollison said that still gets to constitutional protections. If you are accused of breaking a law, “you have the right to remain silent, yet under this concept you have to sign an affidavit or you have to prove you were not the driver of the vehicle.”

When asked why parking tickets are legal, Rollison said parking tickets are civil infractions while running a red light should be protected by safeguards covering criminal infractions.

“The merits of this legislation have been discussed in the past, as Michele pointed out,” Rollison said. “This is not a new concept to the members of the House of Delegates.”

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