MIFFLIN -- It's clear Ohio lawmakers don't want cities and villages to use traffic enforcement cameras, given language in the state transportation budget that takes effect in July.
What's not clear is what the Village of Mifflin plans to do with its camera.
Changes required by that budget bill require local officials to adjust the speed camera programs in their communities and could cost them state money that bolsters local governments.
Mifflin, one of two governmental entities in Ashland or Richland counties still using the cameras, may discuss those changes during its next council meeting on June 13 at 6 p.m.
Village Council member Pamela Crain said Mifflin, through which Ohio 603 courses, has a speeding problem. The community of about 135 people is located in Ashland County, just east of the Richland County line.
"We have our speed cameras because we have a speeding problem. We have a lot of tourists down here in the summer because we have the two campgrounds, a marina and two bars in the village. It helps keep our speeding and traffic incidents down. We don't have the (law enforcement) manpower to be here 24 hours a day," Crain said.
The council member, who said all village police officers are part-time employees, said Mifflin officials are aware of the change in state law, but have not yet discussed ramifications on their speed camera program.
Plymouth Mayor Tim Redden said Tuesday morning the village does have a single speed camera that is positioned near the school.
Debate over the speed camera issue has been ongoing in Ohio for several years, including courtroom battles, the most recent of which ended with a 2017 state Supreme Court ruling allowing the cameras.
Local communities that deploy them claim it's a safety issue and the cameras are needed to make drivers slow down. Lawmakers and others allege the cameras are merely used as revenue streams by the towns that use them.
State Senate President Larry Obhof, whose district includes Ashland and Richland counties, said he has voted several times to shutter the cameras, a decision he said is consistent with the wishes of his constituents.
"Our goal is to make sure if people are using those cameras that they are using them for safety-related reasons, not to raise revenue," Obhof told Richland Source.
The changes next month, in an overall bill that included a gas tax increase, will require communities to file the camera-generated speeding charges in municipal court, not just seek civil fines via the company supplying the cameras.
Local governments using the cameras will also have to report annually how much they collect via fines and that amount will be deducted from state aid to the municipality the following year.
Those funds would then be credited back to them through the new Highway and Transportation Safety Fund. However, that money would have to be used for public safety on public roads and highways within the community.
The new law also specifies that a local authority must file a certified copy of the ticket with the municipal or county court that has jurisdiction and that the court must require the local authority to make an advance deposit of all applicable court costs and fees.
Obhof said he expects the issue to end up in court again. Mayors in large cities that use cameras, including Dayton and Toledo, have already said they plan to challenge the law.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley has been outspoken in her opposition to the state government's attempts, including a blast on Twitter on April 2:
"The Ohio Legislature: raises your taxes and makes your cities less safe -- all in one vote. We are never safe when the legislature is in session," she tweeted.
In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, Whaley said, "We already won this battle in the Supreme Court. Let us not have the same fight again. We will sue again. We will win again."
Obhof said if the issue is really about safety, then communities should not make a profit from speed camera usage.
"If you collect fines, it needs to go to infrastructure improvements. I guess we will find out in the long run if cities are really doing it for safety reasons," he said.