Bill to reduce Illinois court costs could cut public safety fund - KMOV.com

Bill to reduce Illinois court costs could cut public safety funds

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When someone pays court fees and fines, a percentage of those fees go to various special interest projects, from child care to fire departments. (Credit: KMOV) When someone pays court fees and fines, a percentage of those fees go to various special interest projects, from child care to fire departments. (Credit: KMOV)

CAHOKIA (KMOV.com) – A new bill in Illinois aims to reduce the amount of fees paid during court costs, but some are fighting back saying eliminating those fees would have a negative impact on public safety.

Chief Mike Mavrogeorge is the chief at the St. Louis Downtown Airport Fire Department in Cahokia and the chairman of the Illinois Fire Services Association. He’s speaking out against the bill that he said would cut $1 million from fire departments across the state.

“In many cases, the volunteer departments are out in rural areas and they have very limited funding and they rely on these grants,” said Chief Mavrogeorge.

When someone pays court fees and fines, a percentage of those fees go to various special interest projects, from child care to fire departments.

For the fire departments, they use those funds for grants for things like training and zero-interest loans for new fire trucks.

But an Illinois state task force found these fees are skyrocketing, saying “in civil cases in recent years have effectively priced many of our state’s most economically vulnerable citizens out of the opportunity to participate in the court system.”

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) is one of the sponsors of the bill, said for too long Illinois has failed to raise taxes and instead paid for vital services with these court fees.

“Instead, they’ve turned to the criminal justice system, putting that burden on folks going through that system who clearly have no voice in Springfield and that has been an easy place for the General Assembly to look to raise revenue, but it really has gotten out of hand at this point,” said Rep. Nekritz in a phone interview.

Nekritz said the goal of the bill is to streamline the court fees system and reduce the burden on those subject to court fines.

Mavrogeorge plans to go back to Springfield on Wednesday to plead their case. The sponsors said no decisions have been made and they are still working on the final language.

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