JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Senate took up municipal court reform this week, building upon last year’s SB 5 success, sending the measure to the House on Wednesday.
The bill came up for perfection on the same day Auditor Nicole Galloway released an audit on the city of Foley, showing a town of less than 175 people, bringing in over $320,000 – or 85 percent – of the city’s operating revenue.
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) January 26, 2016
SB 765, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, hopes to limit municipal revenue by looking towards ordinance violations, continuing the campaign against “taxation by citation” by restricting ticket quotas.
“Senate Bill 765 is a great piece of legislation to stop cities from setting ticket quotas. I identified a remaining loophole, in that traffic enforcement employees could still have quotas,” Nasheed said. “That struck me as dead wrong. Ticket quotas are ticket quotas, regardless of whether they are being written by traffic control officers or detectives.”
The city of Pagedale came up on the floor, continuing a conversation from committee, and senators debated the numbers and marveled about Pagedale’s high municipal court activity.
“On the road to reform, some cities looked for exit ramps,” Schmitt said. “What we’re trying to do is take away the financial incentive for cities to view their residents as ATMs.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found last year that Pagedale has issued 2,255 tickets, almost 2 per household and a 500 percent increase over 2013.
“This reform of limiting a city’s revenue from all ordinance violations will further restore justice to our municipal courts,” Schmitt said in a statement after the passage of the legislation from the Senate. “It is unconscionable cities would use fine money – whether from traffic tickets or silly violations like the location of one’s barbecue grill or the way their blinds are hanging – to prop up bloated bureaucracies. It is also disturbing to me to know that local bureaucrats are roaming neighborhoods looking at the yards and windows of private homes seeking new revenue.
“Missourians have had enough of the big government mentality of small governments who are shaking down residents, especially poor and disadvantaged citizens, to prop up their budgets and hold onto power.”
Nasheed added that she hoped the legislation would build trust between communities and their governments.
“I am happy to again to be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for legislation that will help repair the community-police relationship statewide,” Nasheed said.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.