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updated: 5/8/2014 6:15 PM

Could a court end red light cameras?

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  • The Illinois Supreme Court will hear a case later this month that could lead to the end of red light cameras.

       The Illinois Supreme Court will hear a case later this month that could lead to the end of red light cameras.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 

There aren't many things that frustrate suburban drivers more than when a lifeless, robot-looking thing perched on a traffic light catches them illegally running a red.

In a few weeks, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments that it's the cameras that are illegal, authorized by a state law critics say unfairly targets suburban drivers while leaving downstaters alone.

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It might be a long shot to think the court would strike the law down, but the plaintiffs will ask them to do just that.

The high court is set to hear oral arguments May 21 in a case brought by a handful of drivers who got red-light tickets from cameras in Chicago.

They'll argue that the Chicago ordinance allowing the camera surveillance was created in 2003 before state law gave the city the OK to do it, so it should be thrown out. That part of the case means nothing for suburban red lights, but anyone who drives in Chicago might want to watch closely.

The plaintiffs also will argue the 2006 state law that allows the suburbs to have the cameras also is illegal.

Their argument: State laws shouldn't apply to some places and not others. After all, while suburban counties are the only ones in Illinois that have red light cameras, they aren't the only places that have red lights.

"We believe the state law allowing red light cameras in any municipality in eight specific counties, but in no other city in the state, is a clear violation of the Illinois Constitution's ban on 'local' legislation," attorney Patrick J. Keating said.

But …

Lower courts have sided with Chicago so far, arguing that when the plaintiffs got their tickets, it was after the 2006 state law was in place and that Chicago had the right to authorize red-light cameras, anyway.

The city also argues in a brief that: "(There) is a rational basis for the General Assembly to conclude that the eight selected locations suffer more from red light violations due to their populations, proximity to Chicago and St. Louis, and other local conditions."

Ironically, the oral arguments will be held in downstate Ottawa, where red light cameras aren't allowed. A decision likely won't come until months later.

Politics and science

What does one of Congress' only scientists think about this week's federal report on the consequences of global warming?

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat, sent this statement: "I am pleased to see that the White House is highlighting this important issue. As a scientist, I believe climate change is a real problem that we must address, but as a businessman, I believe that we must take actions which are both economically and environmentally responsible."

Extra special

Illinois Manufacturers Association President Greg Baise introduced Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner's speech before a lunch of business leaders Wednesday.

Baise joked he'd seen Rauner's many TV ads about how the Winnetka businessman would fight special interests in Springfield.

Then Baise motioned to the wall behind him, to a banner for his group and one for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

"Remember," Baise said to Rauner, "that there's a couple of very special interests in Springfield."

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