By Anna M. Tinsley and Tessa Weinberg

With a swipe of his pen, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Saturday that bans red light cameras in Texas into law.

In a video posted to Twitter, Abbott gave people a close-up look at the last step a bill needs to become law: his signature.

"Hi, Governor Greg Abbott here at the capitol on Saturday, signing bills," he said.

And just a few seconds later, Abbott held up the bill with his signature as proof. With that, the bill, "is now law," Abbott proclaimed.

Critics have long said the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to rear-end accidents. Supporters maintain that they make the streets safer and generate needed money for cities and the state.

State lawmakers have proposed, unsuccessfully, turning off these cameras through the years since they became legal in 2007.

But this year, the push to ban these cameras gained new life after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on the issue, last year writing in a report that the cameras are costly, "pose constitutional issues" and "Texas should ban the use of these devices."

House Bill 1631 by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was approved by the House and Senate in the last weeks of the legislative session that ended on Memorial Day.

This is the first bill Stickland has passed through the Legislature since he took office in 2013. He quickly tweeted a request to the governor.

"The bill to ban red light cameras just passed the Senate and is headed your way @GregAbbott_TX," Stickland tweeted May 17. "Would love your quick signature on it so we can restore our Constitutional rights!"


Red light cameras

Vehicles entering intersections monitored by the cameras are photographed if they enter after the light has turned red. After an offense, a $75 ticket is mailed to the car's owner.

Residents in several cities, including Arlington, already have voted to remove the cameras from their communities.

In Fort Worth, there are 58 red light cameras at 44 intersections. The city contracts with Verra Mobility, formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, to run the cameras.

An amendment added to the bill lets cities keep operating the cameras until their contracts with vendors expire. Fort Worth's red light camera contract expires in 2026.

But Fort Worth residents may see the cameras disappear sooner than that. City attorney Sarah Fullenwider told the Star-Telegram earlier this week that the city's contract with the vendor that operates the cameras would end as soon as Abbott signed the bill.

A second amendment added to the bill prevents county and state officials from refusing to register a vehicle because the owner has unpaid red light camera tickets.

Some Texas counties, including Dallas County, flag accounts with unpaid red light tickets and prevent those vehicle registrations from being renewed until the tickets are paid.

In Tarrant County, Tax Assessor-Collector Wendy Burgess has said people who have a flagged account may go to any of the eight tax assessor collector offices and renew their registration in person, no matter how many unpaid red light tickets they have.

(c)2019 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram