A state law that took effect on Friday tells municipalities they can make less revenue from traffic tickets and fines than they were allowed under the Macks Creek law. The Missouri Municipal League calls the municipal court reform bill that is now law an “overreach.”
State lawmakers and the governor said cities were abusing the municipal court system and making too much revenue. They wanted lower limits on that revenue and new standards, reporting mandates, and enforcement options. Senate Bill 5 includes new standards and reporting requirements and lowers the cap to 12.5-percent in St. Louis County and to 20-percent in the rest of the state.
Deputy Director Richard Sheets says the tighter limits on revenue would hurt public safety, primarily in smaller cities in outstate Missouri.
“Cities weren’t using this money to operate their general operations. They were primarily using this money to help fund their police department and maybe their municipal court,” said Sheets. “Those cities that might have been too aggressive in their traffic control are very few.”
Sheets says the League isn’t sure how new reporting mandates and standards might mesh with municipal court reforms the state Supreme Court is preparing. It also has concerns about the new limit to fines of $300 and that cities can no longer issue warrants to whose who fail to appear for a traffic violation.
“The concern there is that will encourage violators to avoid prosecution and just not come back to court and not pay their fine,” said Sheets.
Sheets says the League and its attorneys are weighing its best options for litigation or future legislation regarding the new law.