The Illinois House approved a ban Wednesday on some Chicago suburbs' red-light enforcement cameras, an unpopular program with motorists and now part of a federal bribery investigation.
Rep. David McSweeney's plan to prohibit red-light cameras in non-home rule cities where the Legislature has more power was OK'd 84-4, a margin bigger than when identical legislation passed in 2015.
The bill that year died in the Senate, about the same time federal prosecutors say former Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval started taking bribes to be a “protector” of red-light programs in the Legislature. Sandoval has pleaded guilty to bribery and is cooperating with authorities.
Red-light technology has sprung up in Chicago and throughout its suburbs, producing piles of revenue for cities where cameras record motorists' indiscretions and hit them later with tickets. Advocates say they're proven to increase traffic safety and free up police officers to concentrate on more serious crimes.
But McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said a low-income single mother who inadvertently rolls through a light on a right turn could be forced to forfeit a day's wages. "This is the most regressive tax in the state,” he said.
Although it affects only non-home rule cities, McSweeney said his measure would eliminate 45 percent of the red-light programs. Others pointed out that there is pending legislation to ban all red-light cameras or to reform the program, which they see as preferable to McSweeney's partial approach.
Itasca Democratic Rep. Diane Pappas contended the plan targets municipalities that have the least power and the greatest revenue restrictions.
“What we're doing by passing this bill is not banning ‘evil’ red-light cameras," Pappas said. "We are depriving non-home rural communities of rights that home rule communities will continue to have.”
But McSweeney said it would be harder to win approval for a total ban. So he's starting with a plan that's been approved previously.
“This is a bill that is so dangerous to the red-light camera companies that they acted to bribe a state senator and they have a room full of lobbyists,” said McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican. “This is a first step.”
The bill is HB322.