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Saturday, October 12, 2013

How to fight against red light and speed trap cameras and win!

How One Articulate Voice Can Sway Government

Article thanks to the National Motorists Association and Jim Walker. Link provided below and you can help the cause and join for free!

Earlier this year, Michigan Representative Wayne Schmidt (with support from a few fellow representatives) introduced two bills to the State Assembly, each designed to pave the way for automated ticketing machines, aka red-light and speed cameras. Michigan currently is one of fifteen states that ban the use of photo enforcement*. The camera companies are keenly interested in finding new territories where they can tap into motorists’ wallets.
Ann Arbor resident and lifetime NMA Member Jim Walker would have none of that. Jim is an old-fashioned triple-threat guy—writing letters/posting comments online, granting media interviews, and providing expert testimony to legislative committees to advocate on behalf of his fellow drivers.
When Schmidt’s bills became public, Jim sprang into action on all three fronts to keep ticket cameras out. He developed specific arguments about how the cameras would harm traffic safety, good government, and the civil rights of Michigan citizens.
Jim testified in opposition to the camera bills at two legislative hearings, and was joined in opposition by the ACLU, The Police Officers Association of Michigan, a judges’ representative, The Campaign for Liberty, and others.
His efforts came to fruition when he wrote a detailed letter to Ruth Johnson, the Secretary of State for Michigan, raising the same concerns.

Letter from NMA Member Jim Walker
September 6, 2013

Ruth Johnson
Secretary of State
Michigan Department of State
Lansing, Michigan 48918

Dear Secretary Johnson:
I want to alert you to aspects of House Bills 4763 and 4762, which would enable the
issuance of traffic citations by automatic machines. These bills would do serious damage
to traffic safety, good government, and the civil rights of Michigan citizens.

House Bill 4763 would allow any local unit of government to install automated cameras
at signals and stop signs on any road within their boundaries, including state highways.
Cameras would be operated by for-profit private vendors. The vendors would clearly
have financial incentives to issue as many tickets as possible. The remainder of fines and
unlimited additional “administrative fees” would be retained by the local government and
the state, circumventing the usual appropriation of fines and costs. An additional charge
would be imposed on any motorist wishing to challenge an automated citation in court.

Notice of the alleged violation would be sent to vehicle registrants by one first-class letter
up to 60 days after the fact. Vehicle owners not paying the fees (or not receiving the
letter for any reason) within 30 days of that mailing would be subject to penalties
imposed by the Secretary of State. Your Department would not be able to renew the
owners’ registration or operators’ licenses, or transfer that vehicle title.

If these bills are enacted, you will be told to deny Michigan citizens the right to use our
roads and sell their private property, based on form letters generated by private vendors
with a financial interest in each transaction. You will be told to deprive Michigan
citizens of mobility and property rights, without the adjudication of any court. And how
would the Secretary of State know the camera vendor’s plate identification was correct,
that the notice letter was sent to the right person, or that the vendor did not get payment
in a timely manner? Would it even be legal to impose these sanctions on the word of a
commercial vendor?

By contrast, the Secretary of State can withhold the registration renewal for a vehicle that
has three or more unpaid parking tickets. But, this requires the order of a court, not a
referral that could come from a for-profit camera ticket vendor acting as an agent for the
local government, an agent that would not be subject to the usual FOIA requirements. These bills would force you to impose significant penalties with no due process at all, on
persons who may never have been notified of an alleged violation.
HB 4763 would also impose significant costs on the Department of State. Systems would
have to be devised to issue at least two first-class mailings to each driver penalized, with
associated recordkeeping and data entry. No funds are appropriated to the Department of
State to cover the costs of these collection tasks.

There were two hearings on the bills before the summer recess. Several groups spoke or
turned in written testimony against the bills including the National Motorists Association,
the Campaign for Liberty, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and the
Police Officers Association of Michigan.

Currently, tickets with automated machines are allowed only at railroad crossings. A
2007 opinion by former Attorney General Mike Cox prohibits using automated machines
for tickets for other purposes. HB4762 would change Michigan law and create an
entirely new category of Civil Offense, separate from the current Civil Violation. A
representative of the judges spoke in particular opposition to HB4762 on the basis the
judges find it improper and inadvisable to create an entirely new section of traffic law.

I’m sure you can appreciate the potential injustices, administrative problems, and risks of
corruption inherent in this program.

I was the National Motorists Association representative who spoke against the bills at the
two hearings. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have about automated
citations, or meet with your staff to discuss this bill. Logistically, I will be out of the
state from September 7 to September 27, but I will have email access most of the time. I
would be available to come to Lansing to discuss this starting September 30.

I hope that Michigan motorists can count on the Department of State to oppose this bill.


James C. Walker
Life Member, National Motorists Association,
[address and home phone number retracted by NMA]

The response he received about three weeks later excited the normally low-key Mr. Walker. It not only proved the merits of his arguments, but also that government officials listened, understood, and agreed.
The following is the full text of a September 25, 2013 letter to Jim from David Richmond with the Office of Government Affairs within the Michigan Department of State:

Dear Mr. Walker,
Thank you for contacting Secretary of State Ruth Johnson with your concerns regarding House Bills 4762 and 4763, which seek to permit the use of red light cameras. The Secretary asked that I respond on her behalf.
The Michigan Vehicle Code is the current state law that governs the operation and movement of vehicles on Michigan roads. As you are aware, current statute prohibits the use of any automated traffic control devices to issue citations. Representative Wayne Schmidt, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee originally introduced these bills, and has conducted several hearings in order to take testimony on the proposals. I have been in attendance during the committee hearings, and have found your comments compelling, and clearly articulated. Many of the facts that you present in your letter are legitimate concerns shared by this department.
In a media report earlier this month, Representative Schmidt indicated that he is no longer interested in moving the red light camera bills. He was quoted (sic) as stating that he, “. . . has chosen not to move the red light authorization bill forward because of concerns he says he now has about traffic cameras and privacy issues.” It would appear that the testimony offered before the committee has helped Representative Schmidt to reconsider his position.
I congratulate you for your efforts and your participation in the legislative process, and I hope that you will continue to offer your expertise on traffic safety issues as they [are] considered by committee. Please rest assured the department will continue to monitor the status of both of these bills throughout the remainder of this legislative term.
Thank you again for contacting the Michigan Department of State.

You can help support by joining the National Motorists Association for free at

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