Virginia 2015 - Legislative Summary
Budget Amendment - Fee/Fine Revenue collected by Localities ("Policing-for-Profit") - Several localities in Virginia, including the City of Hopewell; conduct targeted speed enforcement programs which are designed to collect significant revenue for the locality and not to address documented safety issues. Currently localities are required to return a portion of excess fine revenues to Virginia’s Literary Fund; however, the amounts are so small that they have little impact in curbing these policing-for-profit schemes. AAA supports a more significant retention of funds raised to discourage this activity.
Budget Amendment passed which increases, for example, Hopewell revenue returned to the Literary Fund from approximately $86K under the current calculations to a projected $274K in 2018.
License Plate Readers – Police use LPRs, cameras mounted on their vehicles to take up to 1,800 pictures a minute, and capture tens of thousands of motorists’ license plates. While the devices are legitimate and effective tools that aid in the capture of stolen vehicles, criminals and more, there was no law in place to prevent police from maintaining large data bases of information for years. HB1673 (Anderson) SB 965 (Peterson) sought to limit the ability of law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to use technology to collect and maintain personal information on individuals and organizations where a warrant has not been issued and there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by the individual or organization. Both measures passed the General Assembly with a seven day retention limit, however, they were vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.
Traffic Safety – Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban - While research shows that hands-free is not risk-free, eliminating the use of hand-held devices does keep drivers’ eyes on the roadway when they would otherwise be dialing, answering or otherwise handling their electronic device. A ban would also dramatically improve law enforcement’s ability to enforce the law which prohibits texting while driving. HB 1926 (Anderson) - Prohibits using a personal communications device while operating a motor vehicle unless the driver is using a hands-free device and removes the exception that would allow holding such a device while the vehicle is stopped.
Transportation Funding – Lock Box - AAA strongly supports a bill and subsequent constitutional amendment to ensure that funds dedicated to transportation are used for transportation and not raided for use in other areas. SJ 217 (Black) - Requires the General Assembly to maintain permanent and separate Transportation Funds to include the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, Transportation Trust Fund, Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund, and other funds established by general law for transportation. The amendment limits the use of Fund moneys to transportation and related purposes.
Automated Enforcement/ Red Light Cameras - Red light camera programs across the nation continue to be challenged in cases where they are designed to raise money without any safety benefits as their primary reason for existence. AAA believes that bills which help to address consumer concerns regarding these programs will help to improve their long term viability. SB 797 (Locke) - Establishes a procedure by which the operator of a traffic light signal violation monitoring system will mail a "notice of violation" to the alleged violator. If the matter is not resolved within 45 days from the mailing of the notice of violation, a summons may be executed and the matter may be enforced in court. This is a procedural change which further enhances protections for motorists.