State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, has joined a list of lawmakers filing legislation to lower the amount of general operating revenue that local governments can receive from traffic tickets.
Some cities around Missouri have derived excessive amounts of revenue from traffic tickets, Curtman said.
“Speed traps” are not appropriate ways to generate revenue, he asserted. People should have confidence that their government is going to exercise discretion and not abuse a system to bring in more revenue, he added.
When the system is abused, “It builds barriers of distrust between the people and their government,” Curtman said.
Municipal court reform has been a big statewide topic since the problems that arose in Ferguson last year, Curtman said.
“It’s a pretty big issue in the Legislature this year,” he added.
The current law says that if any city or county receives more than 30 percent of its general operating revenue from traffic fines and court costs, then the excess must be sent to the Missouri Department of Revenue to distribute to schools.
The bill filed by Curtman and other lawmakers would lower the 30 percent cap to 10 percent in terms of the amount of general operating revenue a city or county could get from traffic fines and court costs.
There has been a problem enforcing the current 30 percent cap, Curtman noted.
That’s why enforcement will be a big topic in regards to any new cap on traffic ticket revenue that may be imposed.
A Missourian analysis of municipal court revenue among cities in Franklin County revealed the legislation should have no impact here. That’s because local municipal courts already generate less than 10 percent of general fund revenue.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a committee made up primarily of judges, prosecutors and court officials has now proposed its own set of reforms to the municipal court system. Some of the committee’s proposed reforms include establishing a uniform schedule of fines, making volunteer lawyers available and expanding community service in lieu of fines for ordinance violations, the Post-Dispatch reported.