AURORA | State legislators won’t follow Aurora’s lead and ban photo red lights across the state. A House bill carried by an Aurora legislator failed in a committee this week.

Democrat Rep. Jovan Melton said he brought the bill forth this year because photo red light programs are a “patchwork of law enforcement throughout the state.” He told the House transportation committee that the issue comes down to public safety versus city revenue. 

It’s a battle Aurora knows all too well. City voters decided to ban the program in November with nearly two-thirds of voters in favor of banning the photo red light cameras, even after city councilors decided to include language spelling out how the nearly $1 million of revenue is used by the city.

Ten intersections in Aurora featured the 14 cameras, which generated about $2.4 million in 2017. About half of that was set aside for local mental health programs and organizations that provide resources to people experiencing homelessness or assist domestic violence victims.

Those programs will receive the designated funding through this year, according to city officials, as it was written into the 2019 budget.

Before approving another contract for operating the cameras, council members expressed concern over a fickle legislature and decided to let Aurora voters have the final say.

Melton made his case for the repeal of programs across the state, saying that cancelled programs in Aurora and Littleton are proof the programs are neither about public safety or favorable among voters. 

While Aurora voters did away with the program through a ballot measure, Littleton rid photo red light cameras because it was operating at a net loss to the city. Melton asked the legislative committee why a municipality would cancel a program if it was increasing public safety.

A representative from the Boulder Police Department said Boulder’s program has seen about a 68 percent reduction in red light accidents because of the cameras. 

An amendment was offered to the repeal. It dictated that communities with red light camera programs could take the measure to voters. If they don’t approve of the program, it ends.

The bill was postponed indefinitely in the Democrat-led committee, essentially preventing the measure from going any further. Similar bills have made it to the governor’s desk in previous years. Those were all “met by a governor who installed the program in Denver,” Melton said of former-Gov. John Hickenlooper’s disapproval of previous bills that earned bipartisan support.

— KARA MASON, Staff Writer