Local jurisdictions soon won’t be able to create laws that rival CVC

Now that we've all gotten the hang of the new laws at went into effect last month, there's one more you should know about that begins this summer. This one protects the state from local governments. Starting July 1, local governments may not enact or enforce local traffic ordinances on matters covered by the California Vehicle Code. In other words, if the state says it's illegal to commit robbery, the county can't make a law legalizing it. When I read that in SB 949, the the first thing that came to mind was bicycles on sidewalks. Each jurisdiction in Santa Cruz County has its own rules on when and where cyclists may ride on sidewalks. I also wondered what the law meant for red light cameras. Jan Mendoza, spokeswoman for the DMV headquarters in Sacramento, offered the following explanation: “The gist of the bill is that a driver cannot be cited under a local ordinance if the same violation is already covered by the Vehicle Code. It’s actually a clarification of existing law, repeatedly upheld by the courts since the early 20th century. The only thing that the bill is intended to do is to make sure a driver who violates the Vehicle Code is not cited under a similar provision in the local rulebook. That practice was allowing bad drivers to avoid having violations appear on their records and was cheating the state out of money it is statutorily entitled to.” So, in regard to bicycles on sidewalks, Mendoza pointed out vehicle code section 21206 that allows local jurisdictions to regulate where cyclists may ride. And as for red light cameras, "The DMV has no oversight over red light enforcement, but those violations are all cited under the same Vehicle Code provisions as if the driver were pulled over by a cop, so SB 949 has no bearing,” she said. “When we get the abstract of conviction from the court, a camera-enforced violation is indistinguishable from a more traditional ticket.” While thinking about Capitola's red light camera, I asked police Sgt. Matt Eller how this law would impact the use of their camera and the enforcement of collecting fines. “No change,” he said. “This will not impact us in the least,” he said. “Currently, violators who are cited for a photo red light citation are cited per the vehicle code, fines and penalties are handled through the Santa Cruz Superior Court -- just like regular traffic citations. This new law was enacted because several cities within the state of California wanted to reduce the rather high fine of a red light citation and make the violation a municipal code violation. If allowed, the city would have collected the fines directly and had to set up a review system for disputes, like court. This of course leaves the courts and/or county’s with a reduction of revenue. So, this law was enacted.”
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