CHICAGO

Illinois School Bus Camera Bill Passes State Senate After Fierce Debate

04/26/2013 04:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2013
AP/Seth Wenig

An automated stop sign may not be enough to slow the roll of drivers approaching an unloading school bus, so the Illinois Senate has another idea: Cameras.

On Wednesday, state senators voted 36-12 to pass a measure that would permit school buses to carry cameras capable of documenting the license plates of motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses, the Sun-Times reports.

As with the city's red light cameras, scofflaws would be ticketed for the infraction. Under Senate Bill 923, drivers would be charged $150 for their first offense and $500 for each additional offense.

State Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsor, told the Chicago Tribune that school districts would get most of the money from the traffic violations, and the rest would be used to help fund the program. The districts would need the approval of county or municipality authorities to equip the cameras, since the penalties would be a law enforcement issue. Those caught on camera wouldn't be charged with moving violations.

The measure was the topic of fierce debate on the Senate floor, intensified by the presence of lobbyist Al Ronan. Though he pushed for the bill on behalf of the Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163, Ronan also lobbies for the RedSpeed camera company where he played an important role in drafting Illinois' unpopular red-light camera laws.

State Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington), a vocal critic of the measure, criticized Ronan's participation in the matter and also alluded to corruption and an ongoing federal probe of another red-light camera maker, RedFlex.

His allegations got a response from Munoz, who has taken $4,500 in contributions from RedSpeed Illinois as of 2009, according to the Sun-Times.

“Here he stands now, saying there’s corruption about cameras, the worse there has ever been and bringing up Blagojevich. We took that matter up, and we know where he is," he said in a reference to Blagojevich's prison sentence, reported by the newspaper.

In a Facebook post, Duffy called the vote "very disappointing."

"The bill is all about raising revenue and not about safety," he said. "This 'big brother' piece of legislation passed, just like the Red Light Camera bills – with full support from the Democrat AND Republican 'leaders' down in Springfield. The RLC's lobbyists are very powerful."

Having passed the Senate, the bill will now go before the state house.

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