Ticket-burning legislator labels traffic camera supporters ‘irresponsible’

Rep. Andy Holt
Rep. Andy Holt (R-District 76) burns his own ticket.

A recent, seemingly anonymous, editorial (one of many across the state) appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel, claiming that my campaign against unmanned photo-enforcement is “irresponsible,” and I would like to take a moment to respond. The editorial claimed that photo-enforcement cameras make our roads safer, and, well, the timing on that statement could not have been any more perfect.

On May 31, 2016 (just after our video went viral), the City of Germantown, Tenn., decided not to reactivate the city’s photo-enforcement cameras after studies provided definitive evidence that the traffic cameras did nothing to improve safety. As reported by Fox-13 Memphis, the cameras were simply there to generate revenue.

Virtually every study claiming that photo-enforcement cameras demonstrate a statistically significant safety benefit has been debunked. Many of these studies have been dismissed generally because of severe analytical flaws, manipulated statistics designed to support the desired outcome and a clear profit/revenue motive on behalf of the revenue-hungry cities and the crony companies which typically fund these studies in an effort to justify photo-enforcement usage.

In fact, even the United States Congress has weighed in on this issue when Former Majority Leader Dick Armey produced an extensive report which concluded traffic cameras were nothing more than a revenue generating scam that did little, if anything at all, to actually improve safety.

Regardless, let’s talk about responsibility, or irresponsibility, whichever side of the coin you choose.

I believe that I have a responsibility to inform Tennesseans when they are being manipulated, coerced, intimidateand deceived by the unconstitutional policies of local governments and crony-capitalist companies profiting to the tune of millions.

Let’s consider the fact that when you are pulled over by an officer of the law for speeding, he issues you a ticket for a criminal violation. In this case, your 6th Amendment right to face your accuser exists.
However, traffic camera companies and the cities that use them believe they’re too clever for the constitutional constraints placed on them. So, they simply claim that if a camera catches you violating the same exact law, then all of a sudden it’s a civil penalty, rather than a criminal penalty.

Simultaneously, the right to face your accuser now no longer exists.

Fun fact: The law you are accused of violating (speeding) still falls under the criminal code, but several years ago, the Tennessee General Assembly decided to classify unmanned photo-enforced traffic violations as “non-moving, civil violations” instead of criminal infractions. Does this seriously make sense to anyone?

So, even though the law you are violating still falls under the criminal code, if a camera catches you speeding or running a red light, then it’s a non-moving, civil violation; but if an officer pulls you over for violating the same law, then it’s a criminal violation? It doesn’t make sense to me, and it reeks of cronyism.

So call me crazy, but I believe that it’s grossly irresponsible to continue deceiving the hard-working taxpayers of this state.

I believe it’s irresponsible to manipulate law to coerce people out of their constitutional rights and their hard-earned money.

I believe that it’s irresponsible to let cities like Union City and McKenzie (located in the House District that I am privileged to serve) proudly violate state law by purposefully changing, or simply refraining from including specific language that is now required by state law on photo enforcement citations so they can continue to deceive people.

In addition, I think it’s irresponsible not to let Tennesseans know that the lobbying group, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP), now headed up by Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, is the same exact lobbying group that first got traffic cameras placed in Tennessee many years ago by supporting manipulative changes to the law mentioned above. The very same lobbying group that suspiciously provided the State of Tennessee a fiscal note saying that cities will lose tens of thousands of dollars in revenue because of the following statement: “Non-payment of this [‘notice’ or ‘citation’] cannot adversely affect your credit score or report, driver’s license, and/or automobile insurance rates.”

For those of you that weren’t aware, it has been state law for years that there can be virtually no negative side effects of nonpayment of an unmanned camera ticket. However, my legislation mandated that people be informed of this right on every traffic camera ticket.

By saying that cities would lose tens of thousands of dollars if a simple statement informing people of their already existing legal rights was printed on citations, TACP and the city governments that fund the lobbying group admitted that they only make so much revenue by being able to coerce and deceive people.

They vehemently opposed the legislation to inform people of their rights and tried to kill it.

People should also know that lobbying groups never provide fiscal notes on proposed legislation. Fiscal notes typically come from State data and analysts, not lobbying groups that oppose or support the proposed legislation. Since lobbyists now get to provide fiscal notes on legislation, rather than state analysts, does this mean I can have the NRA write a fiscal note on constitutional carry? As yourselves, do you think the fiscal data the NRA would supply would support their desired outcome?

Last fun fact that every responsible government official would want Tennesseans to know, RedFlex, one of the largest camera vendors in Tennessee, is under ongoing federal investigation for handing out millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in exchange for installing their cameras. More than a dozen states are involved in the investigation, including Tennessee.

What does it say about municipalities and TACP when they literally send paid lobbyists to Nashville to specifically fight against legislation designed to simply inform citizens of their rights? You can make that determination for yourself, but you should also consider that the main voice of opposition to my stance regarding photo-enforcement has been from TACP President, Knox-ville’s own Chief David Rausch.

As President of TACP, Chief Rausch has openly asked the public to disregard my comments, and in essence, the state law.

Chief Rausch has an inherent bias against my comments since his department benefits directly and significantly from the revenue stream supplied by unmanned photo-enforcement. Many may not be aware of that fact, if they were not made aware in a venue such as this column. I sure hope that fact is not viewed as “irresponsible.”

While I wouldn’t consider this fight nearly as significant as what Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks did for civil rights, or what the participants in the Boston Tea Party did for the pursuit of freedom and founding our nation, I am certain that people also told them to just sit down, shut up and stop being “irresponsible.”

Here in the United States of America, where we flourish from the benefits of liberty, free markets and a State and U.S. Constitution that protects our innate rights thanks to acts of civil disobedience from leaders like King, Parks, etc., allowing unconstitutional government-sanctioned extortion and a growing police state that privatizes police powers for profit to go unchecked, is what’s “irresponsible.”

Written by Rep. Andy Holt, R-District 76. Email him at rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov.