Florida Senate approves bill to rein in speed trap towns

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An effort to forbid local governments in Florida to pad their budgets with speed trap revenue is one step closer to becoming law.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to prohibit counties and municipalities from forcing police to issue a certain number of tickets to meet a mandate. The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, spoke during recent Senate floor discussion about the bill. He said it is important that people understand whether their local law enforcement agency is being supported by nothing but traffic revenues, or whether traffic revenue is a large part of what is used to support the agency.

“We are a friendly state. Speed traps are not friendly,” he said. “This bill empowers people in the state of Florida with information about their local jurisdictions.”

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.

Bradley told his fellow senators the bill clarifies 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.

“We don’t want over-enforcement of traffic laws,” Bradley said. “We just want police to enforce traffic laws when public safety issues are involved, not to raise revenue to support the cost of a department.”

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

The bill, SB264, awaits assignment to committee in the House. The House version, HB421, awaits a floor vote.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida, click here.

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