Minnesota bill would take local traffic fines statewide

| Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More cities and counties in Minnesota would be authorized to issue their own fines for minor traffic violations instead of state tickets, under legislation in the Minnesota statehouse. A separate effort seeks to end the practice altogether.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Payneville, has offered a bill that would formalize a practice that is growing in popularity for local governments in the state. It would allow law enforcement to hand out administrative tickets for minor infractions.

Supporters say the administrative tickets that are handed out in such places as Cold Spring, MN, and Richmond, MN, would allow police to cite people for actions that might otherwise go unpunished, the St. Cloud Times reported. Others say the tickets would help offset department expenses.

Opponents say it's a desperate attempt to fill local coffers and that it would hurt enforcement efforts in the long run. With that in mind, Sen. Leo Foley, DFL-Coon Rapids, has offered a bill that would prohibit administrative penalties at the local level.

Fischbach's bill would limit traffic violations eligible for administrative fines to such offenses as exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or less, failure to signal intentions to turn, and running red lights or stop signs.

Supporters say the tickets are more appealing to violators because they are less costly than state tickets and they aren't tagged to drivers' records and don't affect insurance rates.

Cities and counties still would need to adopt ordinances before they could issue tickets. They could keep the revenue.

Violators would have the option to contest the penalties and have offenses charged under state laws, the Times reported.

Fischbach's bill - SF1008 - is in the Senate Transportation Committee. Foley's bill - SF155 - is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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