Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Red light for McAuliffe: Veto override looms

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau - April 22, 2014

TerryMcAuliffeRICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s controversial veto of a driver-rights bill may not survive the end of the week.

Lawmakers from both parties are poised to override the Democrat, who rejected legislation giving camera-ticketed motorists a second appeal.

“Any finding in a district court that an operator has violated a (traffic law) … shall be appealable to the circuit court in a civil proceeding,” declares House Bill 1040, reiterating state law.

The House of Delegates passed the measure unanimously. It cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate 38-1.

But McAuliffe was conflicted. Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, a leading red-light camera company, was one of his political supporters.

Redflex gave $25,000 to McAuliffe’s inauguration and $10,599 to his gubernatorial run, as well as $10,000 to the state Democratic Party. Redflex also gave $17,836 to McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, and more for their inaugural festivities.

Red-light cameras are popular moneymakers with local officials. Watchdog.org reported that the state’s largest city, Virginia Beach, netted $3.5 million through its ticket-issuing cameras in 2011.

Watchdog.org subsequently found that Virginia Beach illegally shortened the timing of its yellow lights to generate still more ticket revenue.

McAuliffe asserted that HB 1040 would have clogged the courts. Yet officials say photo enforcement is already shaky. A Virginia Transportation Research Council study concluded:

“If the person fails to respond (to a mailed ticket), he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice.

“The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red-light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact.”

HB 1040, by Delegate Johnny Joannou, R-Portsmouth, grants drivers the right to contest $50 civil fines in circuit court within 10 days.

Joe Bahen, an official with the National Motorists Association, said McAuliffe’s veto “completely undermined the legislative intent.”

HB 1040 has the best hope for resurrection during an override session scheduled for Wednesday, said Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus.

“Judging from the previous votes, it has the best chance to be overridden of any of the governor’s vetoes,” Ryer told Watchdog.

SEE LIST OF MCAULIFFE’S OTHER VETOED BILLS HERE.

Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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