Florida bill to rein in speed trap towns advances

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/12/2015

Local governments in Florida could soon be forbidden to pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

A bill awaiting consideration on the Senate floor would prohibit counties and municipalities from forcing police to issue a certain number of tickets to meet a mandate.

“It’s important that people understand if their local law enforcement agency is being supported by nothing but traffic revenues, or it is at least a large part of what is used to support the agency, they need to make a decision as a local community whether that is an appropriate way to fund a local law enforcement agency,” Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, testified during a recent committee hearing.

The effort is in response to activities in a north Florida town where officers were ordered to enforce a ticket quota.

The town of Waldo, located between Jacksonville and Gainesville along state Highway 24 and U.S. 301, disbanded its police department in October 2014. The change was made after allegations that the former police chief instituted ticket quotas.

According to reports, the Waldo Police used speeding tickets to support nearly two-thirds of the department’s budget. In 2012, the town even held the distinction from the National Motorists Association as the third worst speed trap city in North America in the under-50,000 population category.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee voted unanimously to advance the bill, SB264, to the full Senate clarifying that state, county and municipal traffic enforcement agencies are prohibited from establishing citation quotas.

The bill also limits the amount of traffic fine revenue that municipalities can keep. Specifically, counties or municipalities could keep up to 33 percent of the total expenses incurred in one year to run the agency.

The percent threshold was reduced from 50 percent in committee. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said the change would help communities better understand how their local department is funded.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol now provide security for the town of Waldo and its 1,000 residents.

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