Missouri House panel advances bill to limit locals’ speed trap revenue

| 4/3/2007

A bill headed to the floor of 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.

The bill – HB122 – was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to delay implementation of the new cap in Jackson County – which includes Kansas City, MO – until 2010.

Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, told Land Line his committee made the change to help one town that would be directly affected by the bill but isn’t regarded as a problem spot.

A similar 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.

If House lawmakers approve the bill it would head to the Senate for further consideration.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor