Politics & Government

Senate bill seeks municipalities’ traffic ticket revenue

TOPEKA – A Kansas Senate committee is considering a bill that would require cities and counties to turn over to the state more of the revenue they receive from traffic tickets.

Any traffic ticket money revenue that exceeds 10 percent of a municipality’s annual revenue would go into the state’s general fund under the bill discussed Wednesday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Municipal courts would have to give the state 70 percent of all revenue they collect from traffic violations on highways.

Any courts that don’t comply would be shut down until they do.

“I’m not sure what this bill’s intending to do except take money,” said Eric Smith, legal counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities.

Smith was one of a number of people who showed up to testify against the bill. No one spoke in favor of it.

Kansas City Municipal Court Judge Maurice Ryan said the legislation would cost his court $330,000 annually, on top of the more than $500,000 in revenue the city already sends to the state from traffic ticket revenue.

“This bill, as presented, while admirable, is a cure looking for a disease,” Ryan said.

He said the disease is when cities such as Ferguson, Mo., collect inordinate amounts of revenue from traffic violations and perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

Several opponents of the bill testified that no Kansas communities are comparable to Ferguson.

“We do not know of a city that’s receiving 10 percent,” said Ed Klumpp with the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police.

Law enforcement groups and local government entities, including the Kansas Association of Counties and the cities of Lawrence and Lindsborg, spoke against the measure.

The committee took no action on the legislation Wednesday.