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Measure further limiting municipal court revenue approved by state Senate

Measure further limiting municipal court revenue approved by state Senate

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JEFFERSON CITY • After Republican state Sen. Eric Schmitt's measure limiting revenue from traffic violations passed last year, a new problem came to his attention: municipal code violations.

"On the road to reform, some cities looked for exit ramps," Schmitt, from Glendale, said. Code violations can include uncut grass or peeling house paint.

Senators approved Wednesday a measure authored by Schmitt that would cap the amount of revenue municipalities can keep from code violations as current law does with traffic cases.

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.

Schmitt's measure also would set a maximum fine assessed by the court, if combined with court costs, for traffic and municipal ordinance violations at $200.

But that change concerns Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City. She said there are vacant properties in her district that are owned by out-of-state banks who don't pay the fines.

"As much as I understand putting a cap on fines, I am really concerned it provides less of a deterrent" for these companies, she said.

The measure needs one more vote in the Senate before moving to the House.

The bill is Senate Bill 572.

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

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