Legislative Report 022318

Volume 19 Number 7 – February 23, 2018

13th & 14th legislative days

Bill to Ban Traffic Cameras Delayed

Rep. Ken Johnson’s (R – Moulton) bill to ban cities from using automated cameras to enforce traffic signals and speeding laws was delayed in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, which is just three pages long, would ban the use of the cameras and would repeal any city ordinances allowing their use.

Rep. Allen Treadaway (R – Birmingham), Chairman of the Committee, said the bill would be sent to a subcommittee, and he did not know if it would be brought up again before the end of the session.

Officials from Tuscaloosa, Center Point, Phenix City and Montgomery told the committee that their use of cameras promotes safety and allows police officers to focus on other areas of enforcement.

Captain Stanley Rucker of the Montgomery Police Department said the cameras have changed driver behavior in Montgomery. Rucker said the number of accidents at one major Montgomery intersection has increased since a red light camera was removed from that intersection.

The majority of the comments from committee members focused on home rule for cities, which is the ability of cities to make their own local decisions without interference from the legislature. Rep. Chris England (D – Tuscaloosa) also mentioned that several cities’ traffic camera laws have withstood legal challenges.

Some members expressed concern over cities’ desire to raise revenue through the use of the cameras, but city officials ensured them that safety is their top priority.

General Fund Budget Passes Senate

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 26 – 2 to approve the fiscal year 2019 General Fund budget. The $2 billion budget is in better shape this year than in years past due to an additional $92 million that the legislature set aside last year and a projected increase of approximately $40 million in revenue.

The majority of the increase will go to the Department of Corrections for prisoner healthcare and the hiring of additional staff in order to satisfy a lawsuit related to the treatment of prisoners.

Senators delayed a vote on legislation to increase state employees’ pay by three percent.

Both budgets have now passed their chamber of origin before the 15th legislative day, which is earlier than usual.

Committees Approve Data Breach Bills

Both the House and Senate versions of the Data Breach Notification Act were approved by their respective committees on Wednesday. The bills would create penalties for failure to notify individuals that their personal information has been compromised.

Under the legislation, willful failure to notify affected individuals could result in penalties up to $500,000.

Attorney General Steve Marshall has worked with members of the business community to draft the legislation that is mostly agreed upon by all parties. Each bill now goes to its respective chamber for approval.

Upcoming Legislative Agenda

The House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. respectively. Tuesday will mark the 15th legislative day, which is the halfway point of the 2018 session. It is widely speculated that the legislature will adjourn by the end of March, which will be approximately a month earlier than required by law.