TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida school zones are now one step closer to getting speed cameras.
A bill permitting them unanimously cleared its first of three Senate committees Tuesday afternoon.
The bipartisan policy (SB 410) gives local governments the option to install speed cameras in their school zones. Drivers could face a $158 fine that wouldn't impact their insurance. The tickets start at 10 mph over the limit, and enforcement would begin an hour before class until an hour after.
"The Senate version did not move last year," said Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, the bill's sponsor. "So, we are definitely light years ahead of the last session."
Rodriguez has offered the legislation with Rep. Nick Duran, D-Miami, for two consecutive years. The two continue to urge approval, citing a 2018 report listing Florida as second to last nationally for unsafe drivers near schools.
"It's obviously a very well-intended bill," Rodriguez said. "I think it will save many lives. It will help children, teachers and all involved that go to schools on a daily basis."
There are critics, including Tallahassee crossing guard Sharon Starling. She told us recently that cameras weren't a great deterrent.
"It didn't work on the traffic signals ... with the red lights," she said.
In committee, some lawmakers also questioned the destination of fine dollars. The bill splits them among the state, local governments and districts. A few members suggested more go to schools to help bolster funding for things like transportation.
"It shouldn't all flow — or mostly flow to local governments," said Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. "It should be split more equitably for the school districts to be able to use those dollars to enhance those needs."
The sponsor said she was open to amendments as the policy moved forward, now destined for further discussion when lawmakers return for the regular 60-day legislative session starting Jan. 11.
The Senate bill has two more stops before reaching the floor. The House bill will need to clear four committees.
If signed by the governor next year, the law has immediate effect, though cities and counties would need to offer a 30-day education period before issuing citations.