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Red light cameras apparently have green light-- but no standards

This aticle first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 14, 2009 - It was a waiting game for hours Thursday night as legislative conferees sought to break the long-standing Senate logjam over SB386, the government omnibus bill.

But the word behind-the-scenes is that conferees apparently tossed out House provisions aimed at curbing or regulating the use of red light cameras at intersections.

Although courts, including the 7th Circuit, have ruled so far that the cameras are constitutional, some Senate conferees apparently believe that courts will eventually rule otherwise -- thus negating the need for the House provisions.

However, some proponents of the cameras had been working lately to get some uniform standards through the Legislature in order to quell some of the public controversy and divisions among some law enforcement groups. Such standards might make the cameras more attractive to some communities, by deflecting any public angst over their use.

The compromise had been the work of a number of legislators and others, led by state Rep. Brian Yates, R-Lee’s Summit, and had some bipartisan support.

Earlier on this session, there had been a move among some -- notably, state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay -- to ban or severely regulate the cameras, which are used by about 30 communities around the state, including several in the St. Louis area. The Senate Transportation Committee overwhelmingly rejected a ban.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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