Georgia lawmakers consider school zone speed traps

Credit: Action News Jax

Credit: Action News Jax

Legislation for automated speed traps in school zones is motoring through the Georgia House of Representatives and could get a floor vote by Wednesday, “crossover” day.

House Bill 978 by Rep. Chad Nimmer, R-Blackshear, is a retread of House legislation that stalled in the Senate last year. House Bill 458, like the new bill, proposed allowing police to enforce speed limits in school zones using automated cameras.

A similar bill in the other chamber, Senate Bill 142 from last year, didn’t move, but another this year, Senate Bill 435, also is scheduled for a floor vote Wednesday.

Nimmer said it’s a public safety issue. “We’ve had several deaths and major injuries already in the state of Georgia in these school zones.”

Robert Dallas, a lawyer who ran Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Office of Highway Safety and now serves on the MARTA board of directors, testified for Nimmer’s legislation at a hearing Tuesday of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

“This bill will save lives,” he told lawmakers, before they passed it. Now, only the House Rules Committee stands between the bill and a floor vote.

Nimmer said he was not encouraged by any group to introduce the bill.

His bill, like the others, would allow cities and counties to use “agents” to provide automated traffic enforcement, with civil fines of $250 for violators. Drivers who fail to pay would be unable to renew their car tags.

Nimmer along with several of the lawmakers who signed onto this bill and the other similar bills, received campaign contributions from American Traffic Solutions, a vendor for road safety camera solutions. The company gave him $1,000 on Jan. 5 for his re-election campaign, according to state records.

Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, the chief sponsor of the stalled HB 458 from last year, received $3,000 from 2012 through 2016. Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, who is leading the way with SB 435, got $1,000 in 2016. Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, a co-sponsor on that one, accepted $2,600 from the company on Jan. 4.

Altogether, American Traffic Solutions has given $8,600 to the sponsors of these bills, though none of the lawmakers associated with last year's SB 142 were recipients. The company has been liberal in its contributions with lawmakers in general, giving $8,100 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for his GOP primary election for governor and $6,700 since 2016 to House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.