Hill plans to revive legislation targeting Bluff City speed cameras

Hank Hayes • Jun 8, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Tennessee state Rep. Timothy Hill insists his legislation to shut down Bluff City’s two speed enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E isn’t dead.

Hill’s bill — which was opposed by Bluff City officials — was advancing and closing in on a House floor vote when he took it off notice last April.

The freshman lawmaker recently told a Greater Kingsport Republican Women’s luncheon that he plans to put the legislation back on notice with the House Finance Committee in 2014. There was no attempt to advance the bill in the state Senate by its Senate sponsor, state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.

Hill, R-Blountville, said 81 percent of 1,500 3rd House District residents who were surveyed wanted the cameras gone.

“It is very clear the district as a whole didn’t want them,” said Hill, who owns and operates a polling and marketing firm.

Hill had amended the legislation to allow Bluff City officials to complete the remaining year of the town’s contract with the cameras’ private operator.

Still, the state’s Fiscal Review Office projected Bluff City stood to lose more than $260,000 in annual revenue from traffic citations if the cameras no longer operate.

“The speed cameras are a piece of the financial puzzle for Bluff City,” Hill acknowledged. “Just because we may not agree on the speed cameras doesn’t mean I’m not going to work for Bluff City. ... I want to help with economic development, but we clearly are not on the same page on this one issue. ... My hope is we can at least sit down and talk about it.

“I would really like to see Bluff City grow instead of relying on this technology for any part of its budget. I want to see them try and recruit some businesses in and then operate off that tax base as opposed to what they are doing now.”

Traffic cameras used to be a hot-button issue with lawmakers, but Hill’s camera bill has been the only one filed in the current two-year legislative session, according to the legislature’s website.

“I would say the undertow is most House lawmakers don’t like (traffic cameras) ... at the same time I’m not working toward a statewide ban,” Hill pointed out. “I would just like to put my bill back on notice and take it from there.”

Besides the speed camera bill, Hill noted another piece of legislation generating interest in his mostly rural district was a measure calling for a moratorium on annexation.

Hill co-sponsored legislation passed by the General Assembly to put a hold on annexing agricultural and personal property while the issue is studied by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

“If any of the cities are going to grow, they are coming into my district. It’s a guarantee,” Hill said of annexation’s impact on his constituents. “I fundamentally believe people should have a say so whether they want the city to take over their space.”

Hill’s district includes parts of Sullivan and Carter counties, and all of Johnson County.

For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The speed camera bill’s number is HB 314. The annexation bill is HB 475.

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