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Cap on non-traffic violation revenue passed by Missouri Senate

Cap on non-traffic violation revenue passed by Missouri Senate

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JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Senate on Thursday passed a measure limiting revenue from ordinance violations such as peeling house paint or uncut grass.

Senators voted 25-6 on the bill, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale. It would set the same revenue limits on non-traffic violations as current law does on traffic ones.

Under that law, which took effect this month, a municipality in St. Louis County cannot derive more than 12.5 percent of its general operating revenue from minor traffic cases. Outside of St. Louis County, the limit is 20 percent. The previous limit was 30 percent.

A Post-Dispatch analysis last year found that Pagedale handed out 2,255 citations for these types of offenses in 2014 — an average of nearly two per household. That’s a nearly 500 percent increase from five years ago.

"It breaks down trust between people and the government and people and the courts," Schmitt said. "We're fighting for the poor and the disenfranchised who are being abused by government officials."

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, voted against the measure. Though she thinks some of Pagedale's ordinances are ridiculous, she said many are in place to make the community better.

Additionally, she said state government shouldn't tell cities what's appropriate for their community.

Schmitt's measure would cap the fines assessed by a court at $200 for minor traffic tickets and municipal ordinance violations.

That's a portion that concerns Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, who voted against the measure. There are a lot of vacant buildings in her district owned by out-of-state companies and she's concerned the low fines won't be enough of a deterrent.

The proposal also would ensure the state is not on the hook for a municipality's debts if it becomes financially insolvent. 

The measure now moves to the House.

The bill is SB 572.

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Alex Stuckey is a statehouse reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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