September 06, 2019 New Legislation Allowing for the Installation of School Bus Cameras (Municipalities*)
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to inform you of recent legislation, which became effective today, September 5, 2019, which permits municipalities, in conjunction with public school districts, to install cameras that will automatically ticket drivers who illegally pass school buses with extended stop signs. The following questions and answers address the key elements of the new law as applicable to counties, cities, villages and towns.
- What is the primary purpose of the new law?
The newly enacted legislation permits a county, city, village or town to adopt or amend a local law or ordinance establishing a pilot program permitting the municipality to install and operate school bus photo violation monitoring systems. Similar to a red light camera, the Monitoring Systems, which may be stationary or mobile, will take images of vehicles that fail to stop when a school bus has its stop-arm extended. That data will then be transmitted to the municipality, which will issue tickets to the vehicle owners.
- How does a municipality partner with school districts to install the monitoring devices on school buses owned or operated by school districts or private bus companies?
Following the enactment of the local law or ordinance providing for the implementation of a monitoring program, a municipality may then enter into agreements with school districts located within the municipality to install the Monitoring Systems on buses owned and operated by the school districts or owned and operated by private companies pursuant to contracts with the school districts. A majority of the municipality’s governing body must approve all agreements concerning the installation of Monitoring Systems.
- Can a municipality install Monitoring Systems on buses without the consent of the local school district?
No. An agreement must first be entered into between the school district and the municipality before any Monitoring Systems can be installed.
- Can a municipality enter into an agreement with a private school or charter school?
Probably not. The new law only permits municipalities to enter into agreements for the installation of Monitoring Systems with “school districts,” which we believe currently includes only public school districts.
- Can a municipality enter into an agreement with a private bus company to establish a Monitoring System?
No. The new law permits the installation of Monitoring Systems on school buses owned by a private company that contracts with a school district, but does not include a procedure for a municipality to contract directly with the private bus company instead of the school district.
- Are there limitations as to which municipalities may enter into agreements with school districts located within its boundaries?
Yes. Once a school district enters into an agreement with a county to install and operate Monitoring Systems, no city, village or town within that county is permitted to enter into, or be a party to, an agreement with the same school district. While not explicitly stated within the statute, once the contract with the county lapses or is otherwise terminated, a city, village or town may then, presumably, enter into an agreement with the same school district.
The new law also prohibits a county from entering into an agreement with any city school district that is wholly contained within a city. In this situation, only the city may enter into an agreement.
- When did the law become effective and does it expire?
The law became effective on September 5, 2019. However, the law expires on December 1, 2024. It will then be up to the Legislature and Governor to decide whether to extend the school bus camera program through additional legislation.
- Who bears the cost associated with installing and maintaining the Monitoring Systems?
The law specifies that school districts that choose to enter into agreements with municipalities to install Monitoring Systems are not to be responsible for any associated costs. Rather, the total cost for installing, maintaining and using Monitoring Systems is to be borne entirely by the county, city, town or village that is a party to the agreement with the school district. Thus, if the school district incurs any costs, the municipality must reimburse the school district for those costs on an annual basis.
- How does a school district receive reimbursement from the municipality?
The new law provides that, by September 1 of each year, the school district must determine and certify to the municipality the total cost to the school district in the prior school year for installing, maintaining and using the Monitoring System, as well as the cost associated with handling the data produced by the System. The municipality is then required to reimburse the school district by December 1 of the same year.
- What if the municipality fails to make payment by the due date?
If a municipality does not make the required payment to the school district by the due date then, 20 days thereafter, the school district is to report the non-payment to the Legislature and the monitoring program is to be suspended until payment is received.
- Who is responsible for paying the penalties for violations captured on the monitoring devices?
The owner of a vehicle that is photographed failing to properly stop for a school bus will be liable and subject to a penalty, even if the owner was not operating the vehicle at the time of the incident, provided that the vehicle was being operated with the owner’s express or implied permission.
- What notification of a violation must be sent to the owner of a vehicle captured by the monitoring device?
Following the receipt of images and data of a potential violation, the municipality in which the violation occurred must send out a notice of liability via first class mail to the owner of the vehicle captured on the monitoring device. The legislation further details the specific information that must be included on the face of the notice.
- Where is the liability of the owner of a vehicle adjudicated?
Ultimate liability and penalties for failing to properly stop for a school bus will be determined by a traffic violations bureau or equivalent court having jurisdiction over traffic infractions that has been established in the municipality in which the violation occurred.
- How much are the current penalties that will be imposed for violations captured on the monitoring devices?
The monetary penalties, which must be set forth in a schedule of fines and penalties to be adopted by the municipality, are as follows: First Offense: $250; Second Offense (if within 18 months of the first): $275; and Third or Subsequent Offenses (if within eighteen months of the first and second): $300. Municipalities may also impose an additional penalty, not to exceed $25, each time a vehicle owner fails to respond to a notice of liability within the prescribed time period.
- Does the municipality that installs the Monitoring System collect the penalties?
It depends. Any city, town or village that installs Monitoring Systems will collect the penalties paid by offenders. However, where a county has established a program installing Monitoring Systems, all fines collected by that county are to be provided to the State Comptroller on a monthly basis. The Comptroller will then pay 90% of the collected penalties to the county in which the violation occurred and ten percent of the penalties to the city, town or village in which the violation occurred.
- Can a municipality use the images and data gathered from the Monitoring Systems for other purposes?
No. Monitoring Systems mounted on a school bus must be directed outwardly from the bus to capture images of vehicles failing to stop when the bus has its stop-arm extended. The statute explicitly states that the images captured by the devices “shall not be used for any other purpose.” Similarly, images captured by the Monitoring Systems are “inadmissible” in any proceeding initiated by the State to address the licensure privileges of school bus operators.
- Can the municipality indefinitely retain the data collected by the Monitoring Systems?
No. The new law requires that all images and data collected by the Monitoring Systems be destroyed either: (1) 90 days after the date of the alleged failure to properly stop at a school bus if a notice of liability is not issued to the vehicle’s owner; or (2) upon final disposition of a notice of liability that is issued to the vehicle’s owner.
- Are municipalities required to implement privacy measures to protect the images and data that is collected?
Yes. The new law requires any municipality installing and operating Monitoring Systems to adopt and enforce measures to protect the privacy of the drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists whose identity and identifying information may be captured by the monitoring devices. The law sets forth several measures that must be included among those that are adopted.
- Are municipalities required to report the results of the pilot program?
Yes. Any municipality that establishes a program to install Monitoring Systems must submit annual reports to both the Governor and the Legislature detailing the results of the program. The law further details the specific information that must be included in the annual report, which must be submitted on or before June 1 in each year that the System is operable.
If you have any questions regarding this newly enacted law or if you are interested in exploring the possibility of establishing a monitoring program to install school bus photo violation Monitoring Systems, please contact Joshua Sprague or any of our other attorneys at 631-694-2300.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2019
* Municipalities: Counties, cities, villages and towns