Utah bill limits locals' ticket revenue stream

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 05, 2016

Concern about law enforcement officers in Utah being overzealous about writing tickets has spurred action at the statehouse.

The Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted unanimously this week to advance a bill from Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, to limit how much revenue departments can keep from traffic citations.

The legislative effort stems from concern about ticketing practices in one northeastern Utah community.

According to testimony, police in the town of Mantua in Box Elder County wrote more than 2,000 traffic tickets in fiscal year 2015. About $250,000 collected in speeding fines accounted for roughly one-third of the town’s annual revenue.

The town of about 750 people sits along U.S. Highway 89 south of Logan.

Hillyard said it is wrong to use police officers as revenue collectors. He added that he did not introduce the bill because he was caught speeding in the area.

“I’ve never been stopped. I, and I think most of my constituents in Logan, know that’s the part of the road you slow down,” Hillyard testified.

To address concerns about ticketing practices the bill would cap at 25 percent the amount of annual revenue cities can keep from traffic citations. Anything above that amount would be sent to the capitol for deposit into the state’s General Fund.

Similar ticket-writing thresholds are set in states that include Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia.

The cap sought in Hillyard’s bill would affect Mantua and two other municipalities in the state.

Mantua Mayor and Police Chief Mike Johnson spoke at the hearing in defense of his department. He said patrols on the highway are about traffic safety.

“I think we’re sending a message that we’re getting people to slow down,” Johnson said.

Hillyard said his bill does not do away with the police department. It simply sets a line on how much ticket revenue Mantua and other affected communities can keep.

The bill, SB100, awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the House.

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

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