Louisiana bill would limit locals’ traffic ticket revenue

| 4/17/2008

Towns in Louisiana would have their revenues from speeding tickets limited to between 10 percent and 35 percent if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, has introduced a bill that is intended to curtail communities in the state that pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

Municipalities would have their percentage of income resulting from speeding tickets limited. Towns with a population fewer than 1,000 could keep only 35 percent of their revenue from speed infractions. Cities with populations between 1,000 and 3,000 could keep only 20 percent, and municipalities with populations of at least 3,000 could only have 10 percent.

Revenues exceeding those percentages would be routed to the state treasury.

Supporters say the protections are needed to dissuade local governments from relying on speeding tickets to fill city coffers. Such activities discourage travel and commerce throughout the state, they say.

Others say they want to rein in cities that use their police departments to “pester” nonresident drivers with unreasonable ticketing.

A legislative auditor’s report released last summer showed there were at least 15 cities that generated more than half their total revenue during a three-year period from speeding tickets. The top revenue earner was Baskin, LA. The northeastern Louisiana town claimed 87 percent of total revenue from speeders.

Downs’ bill would authorize the legislative auditor to investigate towns accused of cheating. Jurisdictions found guilty would have all ticketing duties on state and federal highways in the area taken over by state police.

Another provision in the bill would limit speed cameras to “high volume” locations or roads with high frequencies of speed-related wrecks.

The bill – HB1050 – is in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor