By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun
7:15 PM EDT, March 25, 2013
The Maryland Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a weakened speed camera reform bill that would bar local governments from paying vendors based on the volume of citations but wouldn't ensure motorists had enough information to fact-check their citations.
The measure, approved 46-1, goes to the House of Delegates, where lawmakers have been drafting a separate bill.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Democrat James Brochin of Baltimore County, would outlaw per-ticket payments to any contractor that "provides, deploys or administers and processes" speed camera tickets. Current law limits the prohibition to contractors that "operate" such programs.
Several local governments pay their vendor based on volume, an arrangement that critics say gives companies a financial incentive to process questionable citations. Baltimore County pays Xerox State and Local Solutions nearly $19 of every $40 paid citation, while Baltimore City pays its new vendor, Brekford Corp., $11.20 per ticket.
Brochin said a Senate committee lawyer advised him that a ban on the bounty system would require governments to negotiate new contracts, probably based on flat-fee payments.
As drafted, the bill called for the two time-stamped photos appearing on every citation to provide "sufficient information" so motorists could check the accuracy of their tickets. Brochin said the most likely way to comply would be with detailed time stamps that — coupled with knowing the distance a car traveled between the photos — could be used to compute the vehicle's actual speed.
Baltimore City's tickets already provide highly detailed time stamps, but those issued by Baltimore County, Howard County and the State Highway Administration often display the same time on both photos, making it impossible to figure out the speed.
Last week, the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, that struck the speed calculation provision. Instead the bill now would require just that time-stamped photos show "progression" — that the vehicle was moving and not stationary.
Brochin drafted the bill after an investigation by The Baltimore Sun documented a range of problems with the devices, including inaccurate speed readings from several city cameras and the inability of motorists to verify citations issued in other jurisdictions.
The lone no vote was cast by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, a Montgomery County Democrat.
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