CENTRAL FLORIDA - Sweeping changes are in the works for Florida drivers who receive a red light ticket, and we discovered just who is paying for them.
An Eyewitness News investigation of state documents reveals the two largest red light camera companies paid as much as $149,000 to 10 lobbying firms during the 2013 legislative session.
Redflex paid as much as $29,998 in 2013, and employed two lobbying firms, according to state documents.
American Traffic Solutions, the nation's largest provider of red light cameras, paid eight firms as much as $119,992 to lobby the Florida Legislature.
In addition to the money spent on lobbyists, state documents show ATS paid more than $235,000 in campaign constitutions in 2012, splitting the money fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Across Florida, more than 400 intersections in 70 communities are being monitored by red light cameras. An average red-light ticket costs $158: $70 goes to the state's general revenue fund, $10 goes to the health administrative trust fun, $3 goes to the brain and spinal cord injury trust fund and $75 is retained by the city. Of the $75 retained by the municipality, a portion is paid directly to the camera company with the city keeping the rest. In 2012, cities in Florida made more than $100 million in revenue.
Sitting on Gov. Rick Scott's desk is the state's 226-page omnibus transportation appropriations bill. Included in that bill is language that would create local hearing officers that would oversee and rule on appeals to red light camera violations. Critics say given the amount of revenue cities and counties generate from red-light cameras, it is unfair to also put them in charge of appeals instead of a judge. The law would also extend the amount of time a driver has to file an appeal, from 30 days to 60 days.
"It's unfair to the people of Florida that they have set up this system, because it's primarily about money," says traffic attorney Albert Pucylowski, "The ultimate goal here is to stop the citizens of Florida to fight these red light tickets."
The local hearing could also come with up to $250 in administrative costs, pushing the cost of a red light ticket to $408.
The state says the bill is designed to streamline the appeals process and gives cites options for the hearing process, including partnering with other cities, however, it does not say what qualification hearing officers must have.
If signed, the bill would go into effect July 1.
READ: House Bill 7125
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