By Ed Anderson
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
BATON ROUGE -- Legislation designed to keep drivers from obtaining
electronic devices that can change traffic lights sailed out
of a House committee Wednesday with no opposition.
"I want to make it illegal for ordinary people to have
them," Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, the chief
sponsor of House Bill 188, told the Committee on the Administration
of Criminal Justice. The bill now heads to the House floor
The instruments, known as traffic signal pre-emption devices,
are used frequently by police officers, fire personnel, paramedics
and others to get through traffic by changing a red light
Richmond said the devices can be purchased on the Internet
for about $325. His bill would allow only emergency personnel
to use them.
Richmond's bill stipulates that anyone else caught using
such a device be jailed for up to a year, fined a maximum
of $5,000, or both.
Other states, including Kansas, Michigan and Virginia, have
adopted laws banning the devices by anyone but emergency workers.
State Police spokesman Lt. William Davis said he is unaware
of any serious problems with the devices in Louisiana but
said if the devices become popular and drivers start using
them "it would cause mayhem" with traffic, increasing
accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Earlier, the panel unanimously approved a bill making it
a crime for drivers to play sexually explicit movies in their
vehicles where others may be able to see the suggestive fare.
However, both prosecutors and defense attorneys testified
that if the bill becomes law it probably will face a constitutional
Rep. Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice, said he filed House Bill
640 at the request of a constituent whose family was subjected
to seeing a raunchy movie while their vehicle was near another
with video screens.
The bill was amended in committee to set a maximum sentence
of six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both; subsequent offenses
would be punished by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine
of $1,000. Guillory's original bill mandated at least 10 days
in jail for the offense.