Lawmakers hoping to avoid appearance of policing for profit with school bus camera enforcement

State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, left, speaks Wednesday to the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee about his proposal authorizing school districts to contract with private vendors to install cameras on school buses for nabbing stop-arm violators. Following revisions, Senate Bill 2 was approved by the panel and now goes to the full House.

INDIANAPOLIS — A plan to use camera enforcement for nabbing motorists who pass stopped school buses when children are boarding or departing has been revised in the hope of avoiding the appearance of policing for profit.

On Wednesday, the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee amended Senate Bill 2 to bar school bus camera enforcement from becoming a source of profit or ongoing revenue for either schools or camera vendors.

The legislation, which last month passed the Senate 49-0, originally permitted a camera company to receive, following the deduction of court costs, up to 25 percent of camera enforcement fines for however long a school agreed to share the money, even indefinitely.

The revised measure states that schools can share civil penalties collected through camera enforcement only until the cost of installing the cameras is met.

State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, the sponsor, said his goal is not for anyone to make money off camera enforcement, but to use it as a deterrent for Hoosiers who might be tempted to drive past a school bus while its stop-arm is extended.

"I'm trying to make this so that any vendor who wishes to participate, and any school system that wishes to get this done, that they won't profit going forward," Head said. "We'll just get cameras in the hands of schools without an unfunded mandate."

The legislation imposes significantly higher fines than most traffic infractions: $300 for a first violation; $750 for a second violation within five years; and $1,000 for every subsequent violation within five years.

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Revenue collected in excess of camera installation costs would be deposited in the operations fund of the school corporation or private school operating the camera-equipped buses, according to the measure.

However, the amended proposal seems to require that money be treated as miscellaneous income, since schools would be barred from either using it "as a source of profit" or budgeting for it "as an ongoing source of revenue."

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said he thought the changes didn't go far enough to eliminate the impression that a private company will be profiting from state-imposed fines.

"I recognize that then creates a problem of how will the school districts be able to afford to put the cameras in the buses," Pierce said.

"My opinion is, if we think it's that important for the safety of our kids, we should be willing to help the system to pay for that. You know, it's a one-time capital cost."

The Republican-controlled committee voted 9-3 to advance the revised legislation to the full House.

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