The Missouri Senate has taken a significant step towards curbing excessive municipal fines in the state.
A new law, passed by the Senate last month, puts stricter caps on how much revenue municipalities can collect through fining residents and traffic violators. The senate bill to set these new caps, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, passed with a vote of 25-6.
“It breaks down trust between people and the government and people and the courts,” Schmitt said. “We’re fighting for the poor and the disenfranchised who are being abused by government officials.”
Using municipal violations as a major revenue generator has become a significant problem in parts of Missouri. Just a few months ago, IJ filed a class action lawsuit against the town of Pagedale, located in St. Louis County. Pagedale had become notorious for excessively fining residents over minor violations, such as having mismatched curtains, small cracks in a driveway, or having a barbeque in front of a house.
Josh House, IJ attorney on the case, summed up the concerns of Pagedale residents:
“By targeting a set amount of revenue from fines and fees from its residents, Pagedale turns policing upside-down. Rather than protecting and serving the public, Pagedale sets a revenue goal and then uses its code enforcement powers to achieve it.”
The bill is currently pending in the Missouri House. Read more about IJ’s battle against egregious municipal fining here.