Bills filed to bring red light cameras to a full stop in Texas

Balcones Heights, Leon Valley’s cameras were grandfathered in when the state banned their use in 2019

LEON VALLEY, Texas – San Antonio state legislators are trying to pump the brakes on the last of the state’s red light cameras, most of which are in Bexar County.

Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) have filed identical bills in the Texas House and Senate to void any remaining contracts that violate the 2019 ban on the controversial cameras. Cortez filed the same bill in the 2021 legislative session, but it never made it to the House floor for a vote.

When the state first banned the cameras nearly four years ago, it allowed cities to finish out existing contracts with their vendors if they didn’t have an exit clause for a law change.

Balcones Heights and Leon Valley were two of the cities that were grandfathered in, and both made sure to take advantage of it. Their city councils at the time voted to drastically extend their contract lengths into 2034 and 2038, respectively.

“We never thought a municipality would go on and try to tack on 15 more years at the last second, you know, to go around it, go around the state law that passed,” Cortez told KSAT.

Although Balcones Heights said as recently as last year that its contract runs into 2034, a city spokesman told KSAT on Friday that its vendor never signed the extension. So the city’s contract will end in 2024 as it was originally written.

Humble is the only other Texas city that still uses red light cameras. Its contract is also scheduled to expire in 2024.

Amarillo had also maintained the cameras, but according to local media reports, its contract ended in August.

Opponents to the cameras question how much they actually help with safety and chafe against the $75 “violations,” which many don’t realize aren’t actual traffic tickets.

Even Leon Valley’s official view has shifted. Its city council voting in 2021 to support Cortez’s original bill, and Councilmen Jed Hefner and Will Bradshaw met with Sen. Menendez to get his support for the 2023 legislative session.

Hefner said the only way to get out of the lengthy contract is for the legislature to take action.

“I mean, it’s not just us,” Hefner said. “We work for our citizens. So our sense is that they want to get out of it. It’s not something that benefits our community. It’s something that a previous administration really dug their heels in to get in place, and it’s been a more than two-, three-year effort for us to try and get out of it.”


Although the cameras are still operating and resulting in mailed “violations,” attorney Justin Coquat said they don’t have any teeth anymore.

Red light tickets aren’t actual misdemeanors, and unpaid tickets won’t keep you from registering your vehicle or renewing your drivers licenses.

Before the 2019 ban, state law expressly forbid unpaid tickets from being reported to any credit bureaus. Although that specific language was removed when the ban took effect, Coquat said he hasn’t heard of anyone’s credit being affected since then. Even if it were, he believes it would be easy to challenge.

Coquat said when he received a red light camera “violation” from Leon Valley, he put it in the shredder.

“Throw it away. Make a paper airplane out of it. Line the hamster cage, whatever. But not, under any circumstances, would I recommend paying it,” Coquat said.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

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