Governor Jay Nixon (D) has signed a bill expanding the reform of Missouri’s municipal courts that began last year, but critics say it’s not needed and politically motivated.
The bill caps how much cities can collect from citizens for minor ordinance violations. First-time offenses are limited to $200 fines and citizens can no longer be jailed for nonpayment. It also lowers the cap on finds and costs for minor traffic violations.
Deputy Director Richard Sheets with the Missouri Municipal League says the bill is unnecessary.
“I believe it was filed for political reasons, to make certain individuals campaign soundbites,” Sheets told Missourinet.
Republican Senator Eric Schmitt (Glendale), who is running for treasurer, sponsored the bill. He noted it had bipartisan support, including being signed by Nixon, a Democrat.
“A testament to the issue and how deeply people felt about making sure we reformed a system that wasn’t working for the poor, it wasn’t working for citizens. It was treating people as ATMs,” said Schmitt.
Sheets said the bill will hurt cities, who he says use fines to get people to clean up properties.
“It really is going to be a problem with absentee slumlords and absentee owners that live out of the city, out of the state, that have properties they’re not maintaining, with such a low fine,” said Sheets.
The bill expands on legislation that last year limited municipal traffic fines and fees.