Privacy Bills in the Senate, a First Look: Scott Renfroe is Making Enemies of Every City Council in Colorado
by Eileen | 12:06 pm, January 24, 2013 | Comments Off
…and more power to him
WHAT: SB 13-035, Banning the use of red-light cameras
WHY: Because surveillance is bad enough without being co-opted into a revenue scheme
This one is so simple and it will fail. Let no one say PPC does not have an overall rightish lean. This is a good bill that will die because Democrats never do anything that reduces revenue for the government.
Red light cameras make a lot of money for a lot of people and they’re cheap to operate. The companies making and selling them take half, sometimes more, of the profits. Municipalities are so reliant on the income that it’s no longer enough to take what they can get from whatever infractions do occur; they are ever lowering the bar and raising the fees. Local government budgets on the assumption that traffic fines will deliver certain dollar amounts. In the real world, it’s high folly to spend in January as if you know you’ll get a bonus in December. In government, you give yourself a bonus by creating a ‘crime’ and punishing it with fines.
On top of that, the explosion of those cameras creates a lot (a lot) of data points that have more uses than have yet been imagined. The camera companies and municipal governments have no shortage of customers for that data. Sell a copy to all your friends for extra cash and keep the original in order to watch people. From a governmental viewpoint, it’s a win-win.
State and Federal agencies also like it – they’ve got someone else collecting the data and those cameras generate revenue that local government would otherwise be asking them for.
In short, the forces aligned against this are myriad and potent. It’s a pure party line bill; all 19 sponsors are with the GOP and it’s been assigned to State, Veteran, and Military Affairs. If it does last long enough to get any press, Dems will easily explain the need to let it die with standard lines about this being no time to cut revenue from local government. Yes, that means they are in favor of cutting revenue from the people who actually earn it, but they have top notch people helping them prepare talking points to avoid admitting these things.
Proponents of getting rid of red-light cameras get tarred as privacy fanatics (‘You don’t have an expectation of privacy in public anyway – what’s wrong with being photographed everywhere you go and having that data passed around’ – as if the lack of EoP in public and constant surveillance are just neighboring shades of gray) or as general anti-government types (which is utterly true – I loathe government and will pretty much always prefer cutting it down), or, lastly, as speed freaks who just want it to be easier to break traffic laws.
That last one is a sleazy bait-and-switch. Disagreeing about the best solution to a problem is not the same thing as saying the problem doesn’t exist. Speeding is hardly the sort of culture-threatening crisis that requires the overkill of surveillance technology. But it makes money for people for give some of that money to legislators. I wish I had faith that this bill would go someplace, but, barring a miracle, it’s as good as dead right now.
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