The Missouri Supreme Court will hear tomorrow a challenge to the state law against municipal courts raising too much revenue through traffic tickets, within hours of the legislature considering an update to that law.
The Missouri law that limits how much revenue cities can make from traffic tickets and fines was created in 1991 when the little town of Mack’s Creek was known as a notorious speed trap and existed on the money from ticketed drivers.
The original law said any traffic violation revenue beyond 45-percent of a municipality’s total revenue had to go to the state to be disbursed to schools. That was lowered to 35 percent in 2009, then to 30 percent in 2013 with the added rule that municipal courts exceeding that amount lost the authority to hear traffic cases if revenue beyond the cap wasn’t reported.
The Missouri Municipal League is challenging that last provision, saying it violates the separation of powers between the legislature and the courts.
The state argues cities could still pursue municipal violations in associate courts, and would avoid problems by filing revenue reports with the state on time.
Later in the day tomorrow the state House will hold a hearing on a bill that has passed the Senate that would lower that revenue cap further – the Senate put it at 10 percent – and make other changes such as eliminating failure-to-appear charges for minor traffic offenses and holding municipal judges to the same standards as state judges.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, could rule on the League’s challenge at any time.