DENVER — Seemingly out of the blue, Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter introduced legislation in Congress Thursday that would ban states and cities from using red-light cameras to catch drivers who disobey traffic laws.
But the legislation, whatever its chances of passing out of the Republican-controlled U.S. House, may be a signal of another kind.
The unabashedly liberal Perlmutter’s embrace of this populist and relatively popular legislation is the kind of action one might take if they were, say, considering a run for statewide office.
Perlmutter, who has turned what is ostensibly a swing district into a safe seat for himself after dispatching a succession of Republican challengers with increasing ease, is in the top tier of Democratic gubernatorial contenders who could run in 2018 when Gov. John Hickenlooper’s second term is up, along with former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia (and Democratic women are working to push a female candidate, possibly Denver CFO Cary Kennedy, into the conversation).
According to a number of Democratic insiders, Perlmutter has been quiet about his intentions but has refused to rule out the 2018 governor’s race.
Perlmutter staffers said Thursday that the congressman is personally against red light cameras about his legislation and that his “Prohibiting Automated Traffic Enforcement Act of 2015” is a constituent-driven proposal that’s focused ensuring public safety.
“Police officers are the only sure way to apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or other dangerous drivers,” said Perlmutter in the statement his office sent to reporters. “All of us are concerned with reducing accidents and reckless driving but it is not evident photo radar cameras improve highway safety, reduce accidents or improve traffic flow.
“Automated traffic technology should be used for improving public safety purposes rather than local governments relying on these devices to generate revenue. My constituents tell me these cameras are excessive and seem to do little to improve public safety.”
State lawmakers voted down a red light camera ban proposal at the end of last year’s legislative session; and it’s possible that Perlmutter introducing federal legislation could prompt his colleagues at the Capitol in Denver to follow suit.