Missouri bills focus on truck inspections, traffic stops
April 30, 2018
Officials in the Missouri General Assembly are moving forward multiple pieces of legislation that cover truck inspections, traffic tickets, and how to handle traffic stops.
One bill nearing passage covers a variety of transportation issues, including a provision that addresses concern about random commercial vehicle inspections.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, is behind a 54-page bill that covers topics ranging from the renaming of memorial highways to new safety measures for travelers. He is also the vice president of Schatz Underground Inc., Villa Ridge, Mo.
One provision in the bill specifies that roadside safety inspections are not permitted on the shoulder of highways with a posted speed limit more than 40 mph.
Supporters say the change is intended to address commercial vehicle enforcement efforts in locales that include Franklin County near St. Louis. Inspections along the roadside have been described as unsafe and unconstitutional.
Schatz says the stops should be performed in a safe location instead of right next to passing traffic.
Others add that the “random” stops also impede commerce.
Critics say the enforcement efforts in Franklin County and elsewhere are legit. They add that the sheriff’s department also makes every effort to perform their duties in a location that is safe for both the vehicle operator and the officer.
The House Transportation Committee voted on April 25 to advance the bill to the House floor. If approved there, SB1050 would head back to the Senate for approval of changes.
Schatz said he believes the bill will ultimately head to a conference committee made up of select lawmakers from the House and Senate to work out differences in versions approved by both chambers. The bill would move to the governor’s desk if both sides can reach an agreement.
Traffic violation fines
A separate bill would revisit rules to curtail overzealous law enforcement practices.
Missouri law limits to 20 percent the amount of traffic fine revenue municipalities can keep. The threshold for St. Louis County municipalities is lower – 12.5 percent.
Cities or towns that receive more are required to turn it over to the state. The revenue is then applied to schools in the community.
State law also limits fine amounts for first offenders to no more than $225.
The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee has voted to advance a bill to increase the range of fines for minor traffic violations and municipal ordinance violations.
The maximum fine for first offenders would increase to $500. Repeat municipal ordinance offenses committed within a 12-month period could top out at $300 – up from $275. Maximum amounts for third violations and subsequent violations could reach $400 and $500 – up from $350 and $450, respectively.
Sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, the bill would also raise the 20 percent threshold for municipalities’ ticket revenue. The cap would increase to 30 percent. Also, the cap in St. Louis County would be set at 30 percent.
According to a legislative fiscal note, the widened range of fines could result in an increase of $800,000 for the city of Kansas City.
Critics say it is important to keep in place protections to thwart the practice of municipalities drumming up local revenue through excessive traffic tickets.
The bill also addresses traffic violations defined as “minor” in the existing statute. The threshold for minor violations for exceeding the posted speed would be reduced from 19 miles per hour over to 15 mph. Operating a vehicle without insurance would also no longer be a minor violation.
Emery’s bill, SB692, awaits further consideration in the Senate.
How to handle traffic stops
Another bill on the move covers how to properly interact with police during a traffic stop.
The intent of the legislation is to educate new motorists how to calmly approach a situation and not panic, and also to help them avoid doing anything that may seem like a red flag to law enforcement.
The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee voted to advance a bill that would require driver’s education programs to incorporate information about traffic stops into the curriculum. Driving examiners also would be responsible for providing information during the skills portion of the exam.
SB662 would require all driver training programs to include instruction on how to respond during traffic stops.
The bill must pass a Senate floor vote before it can head to the House.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.