PIERRE, S.D. -- A South Dakota representative said Thursday she was disappointed to watch her bill prohibiting certain traffic cameras die by a narrow margin in a Senate hearing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 Thursday to kill the bill, which would have kept local governments from using cameras with radar detectors to ticket drivers for speed and red-light violations.
The bill had passed through the House earlier this month.
"I thought I had it," Democrat Peggy Gibson of Huron said after the hearing.
A court ruling in a 2006 case filed against Sioux Falls and the company that operated its one camera declared the use of the devices unconstitutional. No such cameras are currently used in the state.
Gibson said devices with radars and cameras can issue tickets to the wrong person and violate the constitutional right to due process because they are difficult to contest.
But opponents said the language in the bill was unclear. One opponent said local governments should decide whether to use the devices, not the state.
Such traffic cameras have prompted lawsuits in numerous other states, including in Minnesota, where the state Supreme Court ruled the cameras unconstitutional in 2007.
Gibson said the camera system made red-light violations a civil penalty, causing a disparity in laws across the state because other communities treat those violations when issued by a police officer as criminal charges.
Gibson also said the cameras don't improve safety.
She was the only supporter of the bill who testified, and only one person testified in opposition. Committee members lamented the lack of testimony from law enforcement or the Attorney General's office.
Larry Nelson, a lawyer and lobbyist with the South Dakota Municipal League, said the language in the bill could prohibit use of radars and cameras in police vehicles.
"We think this is a bill that is going to create problems for law enforcement," Nelson said.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles McGuigan, who said his office has no official stance, said the bill likely referred to devices that included both a camera and radar.
"I have no idea what technology is going to bring us in 10 years. In 10 years we could very much look silly," said Republican Sen. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City, who opposed the bill.
Tieszen said as Rapid City police chief he advised against the adopting of the cameras there, but said municipalities should be able to make that decision. He said the bill challenged local control.
The committee considered three different amendments to clarify the language in the bill, none of them passed.
Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, said she was worried that the bill was complicated by trying to address both red light violations and speeding violations.
"It's like we're mixing apples and oranges," Hunhoff said. "To me, it's too confusing."
She suggested Gibson return the bill another year with clarifications.
After the hearing, Gibson said she wasn't sure if she would redraft the bill or not. She has drafted similar bills in the past few years that failed as well.