Local cops still want radar to catch speeders. There’s no shortage of bills to do that | Thursday Morning Coffee

May 30, 2019 7:17 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Well, we’ll give state Rep. Tom Mehaffie credit for this much: He’s not afraid to hunt for elusive prey.

After watching his push for for a $500 million, consumer-funded bailout of Three Mile Island go up in, well, a mushroom cloud of legislative indifference, the Dauphin County Republican is picking himself up, dusting himself off, and setting his sights on a goal that’s evaded any number of lawmakers over the years.

He wants local cops to finally be allowed to use radar to catch speeding motorists — just like the State Police get to do. Right now, in fact, Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t allow local police to use radarWPXI-TV in Pittsburgh reported earlier this week, as it took note of the renewed push in Harrisburg.

“I am an advocate for legislation that applies broadly because speeding impacts all municipalities. And, whether working full or part-time, in an accredited or unaccredited department, municipal police officers all receive the same training,” Mehaffie wrote in a Wednesday memo to his House colleagues seeking support for his plan. “Therefore, there is no reason to limit use of the best tools and most efficient technology to a very few departments. Finally, let’s all remember that those traveling in excess of the posted speed-limit are, in fact, violating the law.”

The good news for Mehaffie, is that, unlike his TMI push, he’s going to find more sympathetic ears in the Legislature. He’s also hardly alone.

In his memo, Mehaffie said he’s modeling his bill on similar Senate legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe. It’s one of several local radar bills making the rounds during this year’s legislative session.

And when it’s finally introduced, Mehaffie’s proposal will join other House and Senate bills, including one sponsored by Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberlandthat’s now before the House Transportation Committee.

Ditto for Reps. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland, and Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, who are also floating House bills.  And over in the Senate, Sen Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, is sponsoring hs own proposal.

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According to his memo, Mehaffie’s bill would:

  • “Provide notice to residents by requiring passage of a local ordinance authorizing the use of radar and LIDAR in a community;
  • Provide notice to motorists by requiring signage to be placed within 500 feet of the municipal border on the main arteries entering a municipality;
  • Provide a 90-day period when only warnings can be given;
  • Limit conviction to speeds recorded in excess of 10 miles per hour over the speed limit or 6 miles per hour over on an interstate highway posted at 70 miles per hour;
  • Require local police to complete approved training prior to using radar and LIDAR;
  • Provide that the primary use of speed-timing devices is traffic safety; and
  • Require any revenue generated from speed enforcement citations in excess of 20% of a municipality’s total budget shall be remitted to the Department of Revenue for placement in the PA Motor License Fund.”

Now the bad news for Mehaffie and his colleagues: Past local radar bills have come and gone for years without being signed into law, including an ill-fated push last year that even had the support of the State Police, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

And, as is the case in the past, groups representing motorists are lining up against it.

“RADAR is not about highway safety, RADAR is about raising revenue,” Thomas McCarey, of the state chapter of the National Motorists Associationwrote in an April 19 op-Ed for PennLive about a separate House proposal. “RADAR guns are notoriously inaccurate, for instance, clocking trees at 90 MPH, and being unable to distinguish between cars. Claiming that the ticket money doesn’t go to the government is a red herring: it adds up to a lot of money in the end. And proposing that some of the ticket money go to a “good cause” in order to build support for RADAR is plain deception.”

Still, local police have said they need radar to keep their communities safe.

“With the increase in vehicular traffic, specifically here in the southeast where there’s a tremendous amount of growth, there’s a daily request for traffic assessments and studies and speed enforcement on our roadways,” West Chester, Pa. police Chief Scott Bohn told The Inquirer during last year’s push.

In his memo, Mehaffie offered a similar sentiment:

“As a former local elected official, I am well aware of the public safety hazards created by speeding motorists on local roads. After many, many years of debate, it is time to authorize local use of radar and LIDAR by municipal police giving localities the tools to effectively and safely enforce local speed limits. Interestingly, these tools are currently available to the Pennsylvania State Police patrolling local roads,” he wrote.

Our Stuff:
Stephen Caruso says state legislators want a ‘guaranteed chance’ to defend the laws they pass against potential court challenges.

The House Republican Campaign Committee is targeting Democrats in Trumpy districts with a new ad featuring Rep. Brian Sims’ tirade against anti-abortion protesters, Caruso also reports.

And state Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill, is also floating a censure resolution against Sims, the very busy Caruso also reports.

From our sister publication, The Michigan Advance, a story about national protesters targeting the Michigan operations of a Pa-based anti-abortion group.

In a new column, Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young take a look at the lay of the land on impeachment.

Court systems and websites in Philly are still down after a virus attackThe Inquirer reports.
The Harrisburg schools have averted a one-day walkout by teachersPennLivereports.
Pittsburgh got hit by a round of flash flooding during heavy rains on Wednesday, The Post-Gazette reports.
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild’s, D-7th District, longtime partner died over the weekendThe Morning Call reports. We offer our most sincere condolences.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Pa. Dems are looking for $125M for emergency repairs to state public schoolsWHYY-FM reports.
Gov. Tom Wolf is rejecting a  Senate GOP proposal to pay for infrastructure by expanding natural gas drilling in state forest land, WITF-FM reports.
Billy Penn has all you need to know about Phillies’ centerfielder Odubel Herrera’s arrest on domestic violence charges.
PoliticsPA has its annual ‘When Will the Budget Get Signed’ poll up and running.
Politico explains why President Trump is so hung-up on his rivals’ IQ scores.
More 2020 Dems are joining the call for impeachmentRoll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee and Emergency Preparedness Committee legs it to Delaware County Community College for a 10 a.m. hearing on pipeline safety.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 makes an 8:30 a.m. breakfast appearance at the Harrisburg Regional Chamber/CREDC shindig at the Best Western Premier in Harrisburg.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
7:30 a.m.: 
Golf outing for Rep. Tarah Toohil
6 p.m.: Reception for Sen. John Sabatina
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $6,000 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Blame the ceaseless Applebee’s commercials. Here’s the legendary Barry White and ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Baltimore dropped a 4-2 decision to Detroit on Wednesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.