DENVER – A bill driven by House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Republican Rep. Steve Humphrey to ban covert cameras hidden in vans and stationed at traffic lights suffered a fatal collision Wednesday with the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The measure was pronounced dead on the scene.
“It was no secret the governor did not want to make a decision on this bill, and sadly for the citizens of Colorado, he convinced enough House Democrats to kill a bill that places raising revenue above public safety,” said Humphrey, a Republican from Severence.
The governor’s office lobbied Democratic lawmakers to oppose the bill that would have blocked law enforcement from using covert cameras and radar to trap motorists breaking traffic laws.
The use of these devices has generated more than $7 million a year in revenue for the city and county of Denver, but supporters of the ban argued that the practice had not increased safety and it deprived citizens of their constitutional rights of process because it presumes guilt, not innocence.
If the bill passed, it could have put Hickenlooper’s reelection campaign in a head-on collision with the Denver Police Protection Association, a powerful union that opposed SB 181. The union had fought the former Denver mayor’s budget cuts in 2009 and could have derailed his future political career.
“I want to thank Speaker Ferrandino and share his disappointment that his caucus refused to save thousands of Coloradans the burden of paying millions in fines that do nothing to make our roads safer,” said Humphrey.
The bill was killed Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee that voted 8-5 against SB 181, including Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) who joined the Democrats in voting no. Rep. Daniel Pabon of Denver was the lone Democrat who voted with four Republicans for the measure.
Ferrandino sounded passionate about passing SB 181, but faced opposition to the measure twice this week from mostly Democratic lawmakers.
House State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Su Ryden (D-Aurora) passed an amendment on Monday to gut the bill and instruct the Colorado Department of Transportation to study the issue of red light and photo radar cameras, which would have been banned by SB 181.
“When did I become part of the (House) minority?” asked Ferrandino (D-Denver), sounding almost stunned that his bill was the victim of a Hickenlooper hit and run.
“I just want to let you know, Mr. Speaker, the Republican minority is here for you,” responded Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs).
Gardner said that he was amazed to see nearly 100 uniformed city police officers in the state Capitol this week to testify against SB 181 instead of measures that addressed marijuana.
The police officers were more concerned “about ensuring that you have photo red (light) cameras and photo radar than about the danger that legalized marijuana causes public safety in Colorado,” Gardner said.
“It’s astounding to me,” said Gardner.
Added Humphrey: “You think you get the house speaker on the bill and you’re set. But the governor’s office suddenly doesn’t want to see it come across his desk” to veto or sign into law.
Ferrandino said that as the session draws to a close, he as fewer days “to bang the gavel. I think my influence is also waning.”