Measure to partially ban red-light cameras passes Illinois House

After a former state lawmaker pleaded guilty to taking bribes to protect the red light camera industry, the Illinois House passed a measure to partially ban the cameras.

On Wednesday, state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, got his House Bill 322 to partially ban red-light cameras in non-home rule communities on the House floor for final passage. The measure wouldn’t apply to Chicago or municipalities with more than 25,000 residents that have home rule status.

“I’ve been trying to fight this since I’ve been in the General Assembly in 2013 and I’m glad I have another opportunity,” McSweeney said. “Again, I passed the bill in 2015 that was killed by Senator [Martin] Sandoval, and we all know the rest of the history of that.”

Sandoval, D-Cicero, pleaded guilty last month to taking bribes and is cooperating with authorities in an ongoing corruption probe.

Not everyone was on board with McSweeney’s measure. State Rep. Diane Pappas, D-Itasca, voted against it. She said it removed local control.

“We consistently, time after time, treat non-home rule communities as though they are less capable of governing themselves than home rule communities,” Pappas said.

One representative called it a publicity stunt by McSweeney to get headlines.

Another, state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said the measure could be a setback in the ongoing conversations about ethics reforms.

“We have a lot of work to do on reform and ethics and how we conduct ourselves in this building over the next six weeks and this is not the right start to do it,” Zalewski said.

McSweeney said the red-light camera program was corrupt and it was time to act.

“There’s no doubt about it,” McSweeney said. “Ask the FBI, ask the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. I believe this is a corrupt program. This deals with corruption.”

If it becomes law, the measure will affect 45 of the 101 Illinois communities with red-light cameras, or 92 of the state’s more than 600 cameras.

McSweeney even got some pushback from fellow Republicans who said the ban should be for the entire state. McSweeney said the partial ban was a “good first step.” He also said red light camera tickets hit poorer residents hardest and called it a “regressive tax.”

The measure passed the House 84-4. If passed by the Senate and enacted by the governor, the ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

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