Missouri bill would further limit locals’ traffic ticket revenue

| Monday, January 29, 2007

A bill offered in the Missouri House is intended to curtail communities in the state that pad their budgets with speed trap revenue. This is the second straight year the effort has been offered in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, the measure would revise a 12-year old law to further limit the amount of total revenue a city receives from traffic violations.

A nearly identical version died a year ago when it was left in committee.

Supporters who are hopeful there fortunes have changed say the effort isn’t intended to punish local governments. They want to rein in cities that use their police departments to “pester” nonresident drivers with unreasonable ticketing.

The community of Macks Creek in Camden County has been singled out. In 1994, 75 percent of the small town’s budget reportedly came from traffic tickets.

The city’s five police officers were writing an estimated 2,900 traffic tickets, worth about $165,000 annually. The majority of those fines were handed down to nonresidents, USA Today previously reported.

In 1995, Missouri lawmakers approved legislation limiting the amount of traffic fine revenue municipalities can keep. Under that law, cities or towns that receive more than 45 percent of their total annual revenue from fines for traffic violations must turn over any amount in excess of that 45 percent to the Department of Revenue.

Nance’s bill would reduce the amount to 35 percent.

Despite the current 45-percent revenue cap, bill supporters say other communities are adopting practices similar to those Macks Creek did more than a decade ago.

The bill – HB122 – is awaiting assignment to committee.

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