Louisiana ‘speed trap’ bill killed; Barney’s still got his radar gun

| 5/7/2008

An effort has died in the Louisiana House that sought to limit revenues from speeding tickets for towns to between 10 percent and 35 percent. The issue, however, isn’t dead yet.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 10-6 to kill a bill – HB1050 – from Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, that was intended to curtail communities in the state that pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

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

Revenues exceeding those percentages would have been used for police training statewide.

Supporters said 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 said.

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

Opponents said if drivers want to avoid getting tickets in so-called “speed traps,” they should slow down.

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 village claimed 87 percent of total revenue from speeders.

Three other cities also claimed at least 85 percent of revenues from speeding fines.

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

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

Despite the setback, Downs isn’t done fighting for the legislation. He has introduced a similar effort – HB1329 – and sent it to a different committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor