JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon E. Beetem issued a judgment Monday in a case dealing with last year’s municipal court reforms passed in SB 5, which reduced the limit certain municipalities could collect from traffic fines and court costs collected by municipal courts.
The decision will cut back on some of the reforms after Beetem found it was a “special unconstitutional law.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt expressed frustration over the ruling, calling on the Attorney General to appeal.
“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,” said Schmitt. “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.”
The reform was supported by many Democrats, including Gov. Jay Nixon, who signed the bill at a press conference surrounded by Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of St. Louis County municipalities, including Pagedale, Venita Park, and Normandy, as well as municipal officials.
Among other reforms, the bill built on the Mack’s Creek law, limiting annual general operating revenue from traffic fines from 30% to 20% effective January 1, 2016. St. Louis County and municipalities within the county were restricted by the bill to 12.5% of annual general operating revenue from traffic fines.
Koster’s office is reviewing the ruling.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted 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.