Red-light camera debate delayed

Published: 2/17/2010 12:01 AM

SPRINGFIELD - The envisioned showdown over red-light cameras never panned out in the Illinois Senate on Tuesday as a proposal that would strip communities from using camera enforcement was punted to a new panel for additional discussion.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Barrington Republican, had been set to press his legislation that would effectively end red-light camera enforcement across the suburbs, allowing only for cameras at rail crossings and construction zones.

But the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee created a subcommittee for Duffy's plan and other red-light camera legislation. The chairman of the committee - Cicero Democrat Martin Sandoval - said he expected the five-member group on red-light cameras would meet before an approaching deadline for action early next month.

Duffy said he met with Sandoval and was promised the subcommittee would take genuine action.

"I totally trust him," Duffy said.

Traditionally, sending legislation to a subcommittee that would never meet was a way to kill legislation without ever taking a vote. Both Duffy and Sandoval said that's not the case here.

"This didn't just go to the graveyard," Duffy told reporters. "There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed - This is going to be big."

While Duffy wants an outright repeal of the laws that allow red-light cameras, Sandoval, who acknowledged having received a red-light camera citation, said they might have a role if used properly.

Sandoval said a driver who ran a red light killed his sister in a 1997 car crash. He said the cameras could be "a tool to improve public safety. But I think there may be some abuse by municipalities."

State Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Chicago Democrat, also had proposed legislation that would give motorists more leeway at camera intersections. His plan was also sent to the subcommittee.

Hendon questioned whether Duffy's total prohibition will be able to pass, and suggested a more successful approach would be to regulate how and where the cameras can be used since the local communities, in his opinions, are abusing the power.

"It's clearly just for profit," Hendon said. "We have to be fair to the drivers of Illinois."