Thursday, February 14, 2002

Legislature 2002

Camera van program
fate in limbo

One group of legislators wants
to scrap the program, while
others want to tweak it

By Crystal Kua

The legislative fate of the controversial traffic cameras remains in limbo as both the Senate and House -- and factions within each -- jockey for position to either keep or scrap the program that targets speeders and red-light runners.

"It's going to be a fight between repeal and tweaking," said House Minority Floor Leader Charles Djou (R, Kaneohe), who, along with the majority of House Republicans, supports repealing the program.

But time appears to be on the side of those who support the program.

Djou noted that if the Senate and House take the camera issue to conference committee, where an attempt would be made to hammer out a compromise, and nothing comes out, the legislation would die.

"That would mean nothing is going to change. The House Democrats know they have the upper hand. The status quo is the traffic cameras (remain)," he said.

The House Transportation Committee approved a bill yesterday calling for the current law to be repealed and then replaced by a new law with modifications. The new law would take effect July 1.

Rep. Joe Souki (D, Wailuku), Transportation Committee chairman, has said that the traffic camera vans, which photograph speeding drivers, have done a good job in curbing speeding. The red-light cameras are not operating yet.

Souki is the main supporter in the House of maintaining the program, but in an amended form to address concerns raised by the public. His position also is supported by the state administration.

The 56-page bill (HB2167) proposes changes to the program that include paying a camera vendor a flat fee instead of a portion of each fine and prohibiting insurance companies from raising premiums based on speeding citations.

But Republicans noted yesterday that the bill is flawed, with many of the same concerns the public has been complaining about.

A fight could be brewing with the Senate over the House measure.

Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), author of the Senate's repeal bill, maintained her position yesterday that she is open to the measures being proposed by Souki but hopes the bill is a not "shibai."

She would like a repeal to take effect immediately. If there are changes to the program, she would like to see changes take effect next year instead of this year so that the Department of Transportation can hold hearings to formulate rules and take the program details out to communities to get public input.

But the Senate appears less cohesive for now than the House. While a majority of Senators -- both Democrats and Republicans -- are in favor of getting rid of the program, Senate Democrats are still trying to decide what to do about two identical resolutions authored by Sen. Cal Kawamoto, the Senate's main traffic camera proponent.

"There are some people who feel we don't need the resolution," Kawamoto said.

Some have argued that passing out a bill for repeal and a resolution calling for the DOT to make changes sends out a mixed message. Kawamoto (D, Pearl City-Waipahu) admits that the moratorium aspect of the resolution is moot because there is no support.

But the changes he is asking for in the resolutions mirror what is in Souki's bill, he said. "All of that is in our resolution."

Djou and others have also noted that the longer the program is left untouched, camera van supporters hope, public reaction will change.

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