Traffic Fine Law on the Verge of Passing
On April 22, SB 5, which greatly strengthens a law that limits how much revenue a city can raise via traffic fines, passed the Missouri House.
The bill has changed somewhat since it was introduced in the senate. Starting in 2016, the cap on how much a municipality can raise from traffic fines will fall from 30 percent to 20 percent of general revenue, unless the municipality is within Saint Louis County, where it will fall to 15 percent. These provisions are somewhat weaker than the original bill, which would have brought the cap down to 10 percent in populous counties. The amended bill includes more provisions that make courts transparent and protect people arrested due to unpaid fines.
The bill’s text still includes the enforcement provisions that the existing law, known as the Macks Creek Law, lacks. No enforcement has meant fines have become a significant revenue stream for cities, especially in Saint Louis County.
If this bill passes, revenue from fines and fees will be well defined, reporting requirements will be strict, and penalties for failing to comply are significant, including triggering a vote on disincorporation.
Many municipalities still object to the law, claiming that this prevents them from enforcing the law. But as we wrote before:
This argument falls flat because revenue collected in excess of SB 5’s provisions is simply remitted to the state, which in turn gives that money to the school systems in the county of the municipality in question. If police in local cities need to fine people to protect health and safety, they can still do so. But SB 5 takes away the narrow financial interests of the city government.
If the senate agrees to the house’s alterations to the bill, SB 5 will only require the governor’s signature to become law.