Beaufort News

Sen. Davis pushes for traffic-camera study during hiatus

State Sen. Tom Davis wants a commission to study the use of automated traffic cameras to enforce traffic laws, like those operated by the town of Ridgeland on Interstate 95.

Davis, R-Beaufort, filed an amendment Tuesday to a Senate bill that would ban the cameras. Davis said he would vote for the bill, S336, but wants the stipulation that a commission be formed to examine the ethical, legal and policy issues created by traffic cameras.

The commission, to include representatives from state government, law enforcement and the S.C. Bar Association, would report to the legislature by Nov. 1.

"I think everybody recognizes this is not a debate that is going to go away," Davis said. "My point is, let's make decisions based on facts."

Legislators could then debate and address the camera issue during the 2012 session, he said.

In the meantime, Davis said, it's important to maintain the "no traffic cameras status quo."

"You need to be suspicious any time you're talking about increasing government power," he said.

In the S.C. House, Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, introduced a bill that would make Ridgeland's use of traffic cameras legal. State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, and Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, joined Erickson in sponsoring the bill.

Erickson said Tuesday she introduced her bill to spark debate about the future of automated traffic enforcement in South Carolina.

"My goal was to have an absolute vetting of the issue and let all sides be heard," she said. "It was simply a starting place for discussion."

If the Senate bill with Davis' amendment makes it to the House and gains support, Erickson said she wouldn't stand in the way. But she would like the debate to occur this session within legislative committees.

"I have too often seen study committees' reports come back and be put in a drawer," she said.

Davis said his amendment has been well-received. He expects the bill to be debated in the next two weeks and believes it will pass.

The bill to ban the cameras, like ones Ridgeland has used to enforce speeding on a seven-mile stretch of I-95 since August, has a temporary hold on its advancement to the Senate floor, as some senators have asked for more time to study the issue.

Attempts Tuesday to contact the bill's sponsor, Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, were unsuccessful.

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