The Missouri House on Thursday passed and sent to the governor a bill that takes aim at what critics call predatory municipal practices that target the poor and use courts and police departments as ATMs, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If Gov. Jay Nixon signs the bill as expected, people could be fined no more than $300 for minor traffic offenses. Cities couldn't pile on extra “failure to appear” charges because an offender missed a court date. And in most cases, traffic offenders couldn't be jailed for failing to pay fines.
Cities that use municipal courts as revenue generators would have to look elsewhere. Fines and fees from minor violations could furnish no more than 12.5 percent of the general operating revenue for municipalities in St. Louis County and 20 percent in the rest of the state. The legislation was approved with broad majorities, 134-25 in the House and 31-3 in the Senate. House Speaker John Diehl said the bill would end “taxation by citation.” A push for the legislation gained momentum after last year's unrest following a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Mo.