Florida bill seeks to rein in speed trap towns

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, January 14, 2015

If a Florida state lawmaker gets his way, communities would not be allowed to pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

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.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed a bill for consideration to limit the amount of traffic fine revenue that municipalities can keep. Specifically, counties or municipalities could keep up to 50 percent of the total expenses incurred in one year to run the agency.

Supporters say the effort isn’t intended to punish local governments. They want to impede communities such as Waldo that use their police departments to “pester” nonresident drivers with unreasonable ticketing.

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

The bill, SB264, awaits assignment to committee. The regular session officially opens on March 3.

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