DENVER -- The kill committee lived up to its nickname again on Monday, even though the Democrat-controlled panel was hearing a proposal sponsored by their own leader, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.
Against Ferrandino's wishes, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs amended his proposal to ban red light cameras and photo radar vans across the state, gutting the measure by turning it into a mere study of whether the technology used by many cities is actually improving public safety as mayors and police chiefs claim.
But Senate Bill 181, which moves now to the House Appropriations Committee, isn't dead just yet, because Ferrandino can try to find the votes to strip out the amendment and return the proposal to its original form and possibly amend the bill in other ways that might get it to the governor's desk.
"I think good things will come from this," Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, the committee chairwoman, told Ferrandino after her amendment passed on a 6-5 vote.
Ferrandino, D-Denver, in his final weeks in office, was nonplussed.
"I don't think we need to study this anymore," he said.
Ferrandino and the bill's other supporters don't believe the red light cameras and photo radar vans many cities use improve public safety so much as they generate revenue.
"We are automating the enforcement of our laws at the goal of increasing revenues and not public safety," he said.
S.B. 181 is that rare piece of legislation with support from the far left and the far right (Ferrandino's co-sponsor, Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the House, known for sponsoring an abortion ban).
But police chiefs and metro area mayors are united in opposition to the measure.
"These photo red light cameras and photo radars have helped to reduce accidents," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock Monday in an interview with FOX31 Denver.
"I don't believe it's fair game to play politics with the public safety of our citizens."
According to Hancock, accidents have dropped 40 percent at the busy intersection of 6th Avenue and Speer Boulevard since red light cameras were installed; and the employment of cameras has allowed Denver's police department to stretch an already thin force to cover more of the city.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey also told lawmakers Monday that his office has used footage from red light cameras to solve violent crimes, including hit and runs.
Morrissey scoffed at the notion that cities were using the cameras to generate revenue.
"There's no revenue if you don't run the red light," he said.