A plan to reform the state’s municipal courts has made it to a committee of House and Senate members who will try to find a version both chambers can agree on.
The House added to a bill that would further limit how much of a city’s annual revenue can come from traffic tickets and fines, language requiring minimum standards for local government in St. Louis County, including a capital improvements plan and annual audits.
Senate sponsor Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) says some senators are worried those requirements could violate the Hancock Amendment; a constitutional protection against the state requiring local governments to do something they have to pay for.
“I think there are some good ideas there, but we’ll have to figure out how that relates to the bill,” Schmitt told Missourinet.
That language was offered by House Speaker John Diehl, who said no one has discussed those concerns with him.
“I don’t think there are any Hancock issues with it, but we’re happy to discuss whatever concerns there are,” Diehl told Missourinet. “It’s something that we feel pretty strongly about and I think it was pretty instrumental to having the bill pass the House.”
The two chambers must also agree on how much the bill would change the current 30-percent limit to how much of a city’s annual revenue can come from traffic tickets and fines, with anything beyond that limit going to school districts local to that city. Both chambers propose reducing it to 20-percent in most of the state. The Senate, though, would reduce it further to 10-percent in “suburban areas,” while the House would reduce it to 15-percent only in St. Louis County.
The plan was prompted in part by Department of Justice findings that Ferguson Municipal Courts were discriminating against blacks and were more focused on generating revenue than administering justice.
Nine days remain before the end of the session.