Update: Lawmaker says highway license plate reader expansion will be dropped from NCDOT bill

Narrowly rejected almost two years ago by the N.C. House, language on license plate cameras on state highways is part of NCDOT's annual ask.

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Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Language that would expand the use of license plate reading cameras along North Carolina highways is part of a broader bill backed this year by the state Department of Transportation.
Update: State Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus, who is carrying the bill in the House, said Friday after this story published that the license plate reader language will be removed from the bill as it goes forward. He said he was planning this prior to publication and filed the bill as-is to meet a filing deadline.
The measure revives an issue that has generated concern among privacy advocates. The North Carolina House narrowly rejected a bill on the topic in 2019.

License plate readers record plate numbers as vehicles pass, which can be cross-referenced against a database to find stolen vehicles, missing people and help with other criminal investigations. Police already use them in a number of North Carolina cities, but lawmakers have gone back and forth over whether to expand usage along state highways.

House Bill 165 would authorize the DOT to enter agreements to place readers along roads. The department included this language in a six-page bill of 2021 agency requests that touch on various transportation policies.

The bill would also increase the number of public-private partnerships, like the agreement that produced the private Interstate 77 toll road near Charlotte. The DOT describes the toll road language as merely clarifying, making it clear that the state can authorize up to six of these deals as intended, not three, as some have interpreted existing law.

The bill also would make it easier for the department, which oversees the state Division of Motor Vehicles, to offer more renewals online without having to wait for legislative approval.

The bill was referred this week to the House Transportation committee. It hasn't been scheduled for a hearing yet, but is expected to be.


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