Court strikes down Mo. law limiting revenue from traffic tickets -

Court strikes down Mo. law limiting revenue from traffic tickets

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(Credit: KMOV) (Credit: KMOV)

A judge has struck down major parts of a Missouri law designed to limit revenue cities collect from traffic tickets, court fees and fines.

Senate Bill 5, which was signed into law in 2015, was struck down by a judge in Cole County Monday.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that he will appeal the decision Tuesday.

The bill was signed into law in the aftermath of protests in Ferguson because many felt some cities relied too much on court fees, fines and traffic tickets to fund basic city services.

It was challenged by several municipalities in north St. Louis County, who argued the law was unfair because of the revenue collection limits it imposed. Under the law, up to 12.5 percent of a St. Louis County town’s revenue could be from traffic fines. But for cities outside St. Louis County, the limit was 20 percent.

The 12 municipalities include, Bel-Nor, Bel Ridge, Cool Valley, Moline Acres, Normandy, Northwoods, Pagedale, Velda Village Hills, Village of Glen Echo Park, Village of Uplands Park, Vinita Park, Wellston. 

Several mayors praised the judge's ruling during Koster's announcement of an appeal.

"We are asking to be at that table to help craft that legislation to participate with conversation that leads to a structure that everyone wins at," Normandy Mayor Patrick Green said.

Sam Alton, the attorney for municipalities who sued to block the law said the bill was rushed, difficult to follow, and is an example of overreach.

Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem determined many parts of the law violate the Missouri Constitution.

Bill sponsor State Sen. Eric Schmitt released the following statement on the ruling:

"This is another example of why so many Missourians have lost faith in government, the justice system and big institutions because they make them feel powerless and used. For years citizens have been abused by local bureaucrats who have treated them like ATMs to fund their bloated budgets, salaries and perks.  These same bureaucrats used the money they collected to hire an out-of-state attorney and lobbyists to fight the most significant municipal court reform ever enacted in Missouri.  I contacted Attorney General Chris Koster and urged him to immediately appeal the circuit court ruling.  I am confident our bipartisan reform will pass the Missouri Supreme Court test."

State Auditor Nicole Galloway also released a statement:

"My office is currently reviewing the decision and its implications for municipal court requirements. Regardless of this ruling, I will continue the audits I am conducting as part of the Municipal Courts Initiative because my office is responsible for holding municipal courts accountable. The initiative's expanded court audit procedures have already identified improper activities and practices throughout Missouri. Government exists to serve citizens, and I will continue to help ensure courts serve Missourians fairly."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he wants to work with the legislature to make changes to the law that will make it enforceable and be upheld by the courts.

Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, announced Tuesday he plans to appeal the Senate Bill 5 ruling.

Copyright 2015 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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