Assembly approves school speed-zone cameras for Nassau, Suffolk

Traffic moves past the sign for the red-light

Traffic moves past the sign for the red-light camera on Old Country Road in Westbury on Aug. 18, 2011. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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ALBANY -- The state Assembly Monday passed legislation to permit installation of school speed-zone cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties to boost local revenue, despite complaints during the debate that the program amounted to a "money grab" and "entrapment."

The State Senate hasn't signaled yet when it will take up the measure.

The speed camera bill is crucial to Nassau's finances. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state monitoring board that controls county finances, has said the estimated $12 million or more in annual revenue from speed-zone cameras could be used to help lift a union-employee wage freeze that has lasted for three years.

Each of the 124 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk would get a speed camera.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has said the county could realize $25 million to $30 million annually from the cameras. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone projected that 20 school-zone cameras would generate $2 million in annual revenue.

Some state legislators derided the claim that the cameras were primarily about safety.

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"People don't like to be entrapped and that's what we're doing," said Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James). "This is government entrapping its own residents to raise revenue."

The speed camera legislation also would expand authorization to 140 cameras for New York City, and numerous city legislators spoke in favor of the bill, saying it could save lives.

"I believe behavior will be modified," said Assemb. Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan).

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Violators would face a $50 fine; failure to pay could trigger another $25 fine.

Lawmakers tried to get school speed cameras approved as part of the state budget, which was adopted March 31. But talks broke down amid questions about divvying up the revenue and determining whether local governments had to formally ask the State Legislature to act. Nassau and Suffolk passed such "home rule" requests earlier this month, clearing the way for the state to take up the measure.

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