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- A new state law forced Ridgeland to pull the plug on its controversial speed camera system last month, but the debate over the future of automated traffic enforcement in South Carolina won't end there.
As part of a law banning speed cameras and speeding tickets based on photographic evidence, a 13-member S.C. Traffic Enforcement Commission soon will be appointed to examine the ethical, legal and policy issues traffic cameras create.
According to state law, the commission will comprise representatives from state government, law enforcement and the S.C. Bar and Criminal Defense Lawyers associations. It must begin meeting "as soon as practicable." Commission members will not be paid, state law stipulates.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, introduced an amendment to form the study group in February and said he will meet with Senate President Pro Tem Glen McConnell, R-Charleston, after the July 4 holiday to begin making appointments.
"I don't know if I'm going to be a member, but I'm certainly willing to serve on the commission if asked," Davis said.
The panel also is expected to include the president of the S.C. Sheriff's Association, an organization currently led by Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner.
It is unclear whether Tanner will serve on the commission, as his term as association president ends July 12, said Sgt. Robin McIntosh, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young will take over as the group's president, McIntosh said.
State law assigns the commission to examine more than 20 questions related to the use of traffic cameras. Those questions include the constitutionality of mailing speeding tickets to alleged violators, whether the state has enough judges and magistrates to handle the increase in citations and whether the S.C. Department of Public Safety should be the only agency authorized to use the cameras.
The panel must report its findings to the legislature by Nov. 1.
Davis said the commission's report will provide lawmakers the answers they need to determine the long-term future of speed cameras in South Carolina.
"The good thing about a report that is presented in the General Assembly is that it doesn't always lead to a direct action, but it helps flesh out and answer the questions that lawmakers need to make good public policy," Davis said. "It's really matter of ... our judicial system catching up with technology, and state lawmakers determining how this technology can be best used to improve public safety and assist law enforcement."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.