Partial ban of red-light cameras passes Illinois House

  • Could red-light cameras be an endangered species? A bill to prohibit them in non-home-rule towns passed the Illinois House.

    Could red-light cameras be an endangered species? A bill to prohibit them in non-home-rule towns passed the Illinois House. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 2/26/2020 6:40 PM

The future of red-light cameras in non-home-rule municipalities is in question after the Illinois House passed legislation partially banning the devices Wednesday.

House Bill 322 still requires Senate approval but received an overwhelming 84-4 margin of victory in the House with bipartisan support.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"These cameras are not about safety," said Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, the bill's sponsor. "They are all about producing revenue and lining the pockets of political insiders."

If the bill clears the Senate and is signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the policy would prohibit red-light cameras from being installed in non-home-rule communities, which are those with populations of 25,000 or less, unless they achieved home-rule status by referendum.

Non-home-rule towns with existing cameras could no longer use them as of Jan. 1, 2021.

Supporters of the devices, legalized in the suburbs in 2006, say they prevent crashes and encourage safe driving. With $100 fines, the cameras also are a significant source of revenue for some towns.

The House action comes amid a sweeping federal corruption probe that resulted in former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, the Senate Transportation Committee chairman, pleading guilty for accepting bribes related to red-light cameras.

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Democratic State Rep. Mark Walker of Arlington Heights voted no, saying the bill does not include Chicago or most of his district, where many suburbs have home-rule authority.

"It doesn't cover any of the communities where corruption has been uncovered. There are better bills soon to come out of committee -- to outlaw red light cameras across all counties and cities," Walker said.

Democratic State Rep. Diane Pappas of Itasca voted no because the bill "takes away a safety tool and source of revenue from some of the communities that are most constrained in the state. It's easy to pick on the little guys."

Bensenville is one non-home-rule town that could lose its red-light cameras.

"We have been supportive of ethics reform efforts on red light cameras," Village Manager Evan Summers said, adding the village backs an alternative bill. "If Springfield wants to have an honest conversation about red light cameras, they should have included the city of Chicago."

McSweeney, who tried to prohibit red-light cameras in 2015, said he wants the devices banished entirely from Illinois but said House Bill 322 was a compromise that would pass.

"It's a sham that hurts low-income people," he said of the cameras.

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