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Bill banning schemes to hide license plates, fool traffic cameras, returns

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PHOENIX – A Tucson lawmaker is renewing a push to ban license plate coverings that thwart photo enforcement cameras, saying the products endanger the public and law-breakers alike.

HB 2046, authored by Democratic Rep. Steve Farley, would outlaw any film, covering or substance that distorts or obscures license plate information.

“If you think we should allow people to cover up their license plates, then we shouldn’t have a license plate law in the first place,” he said.

Farley said if speeders or drivers who run red lights aren’t caught by photo enforcement cameras, they might continue to break the law and endanger other citizens with reckless driving.

A similar bill by Farley didn’t receive a hearing in the House Transportation Committee last year. He’s altered this year’s bill to remove references to photo enforcement, a change he said acknowledges that coverings also make it more difficult for patrol officers to see license plates.

Brian Livingston, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, said his organization supports banning license plate covers. During chases, he said, obscured license plates may force officers to put themselves in danger by pulling closer to fleeing vehicles.

In addition, Livingston said, if a photo enforcement system is unable to identify a car by its license number, it becomes much more difficult for officers to discover if a car is stolen or has been involved in a crime.

Michelle Donati, AAA Arizona’s public affairs supervisor, said distorted plates might encourage drivers to break the law as well as hinder the police.

“If officers need to contact drivers for any reason, we don’t any barriers in the way,” she said.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Vic Williams, R-Tucson, who didn’t take up the bill last year, said his committee’s top priorities this session include strengthening DUI laws, increasing funding for highways and outlawing texting while driving. But he said he still might hear Farley’s bill.

“There’s only so much time we have to deal with various issues,” Williams said.