For Immediate Release:
Jan. 21, 2015

Contact: Kack Haslag
(573) 751-2853

Senator Schmitt Works to Make Traffic Fines Fairer

JEFFERSON CITY — Today, the Senate Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 5. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, would reduce how much a municipality can fund its budget with traffic fines. Currently, a municipality may fund up to 30 percent of its budget with traffic fines. Senator Schmitt’s bill would reduce that amount to 10 percent.

The Senate committee heard testimony from citizens, law enforcement officials, think tanks and municipal officials.

“I am grateful for everyone who came to the Capitol to testify on the bill,” Sen. Schmitt said. “This is an issue that impacts Missourians in all parts of the state. I want to ensure that cities are not writing tickets to fund bloated and inefficient government.”

In testimony provided to the committee, a letter was disclosed from the mayor of Edmundson to its police department, promoting the writing of traffic tickets. Notably, the mayor remarks:

“I wish to take this opportunity to remind you that the tickets you write do add to the revenue on which the P.D. budget is established and will directly affect pay adjustments at budget time.”

In the letter, Mayor John Gwaltney does point out that Edmundson does not have quotas and does only want “good tickets” written. Mayor Gwaltney continues that he wants to provide good compensation and benefits for everyone. However Mayor Gwaltney continues that the city’s ability to provide good compensation and benefits “is being compromised by your work slow down.”

“This letter from the mayor of Edmundson is exactly the type of behavior we want to avoid,” Sen. Schmitt continued. “Giving police officers a perverse incentive to write more traffic tickets will only perpetuate the issue of preying on motorists, especially poor motorists, who cannot afford to pay their fines.“

Edmundson had a population of 834 at the 2010 census. The Edmundson city website notes that the police department’s goal is to enhance safety, and to that end, traffic violations are vigorously enforced. Further, enforcement by the officers is encouraged and expected.

“Government exists to serve our citizens,” Sen. Schmitt said. “Unfortunately, the municipal court system — especially in the St. Louis region — has created a system of traffic ticket tricks and schemes designed to extract more and more from our citizens. These schemes are little more than ATMs for bloated big government budgets that have hit the poor especially hard. This is abusive system deserves thoughtful reform. My legislation will help right a wrong and help us move forward.”