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Bill to limit cities’ collection of traffic ticket fines advances

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill mandating that no more than 10% of a city’s budget can come from traffic ticket fines is one vote away from becoming law.

The House State Government Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to advance Senate Bill 282 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, limiting the amount of money Alabama cities could collect from traffic tickets.

“As a city councilman for 14 years and dealing with municipal budgets, I know firsthand how cities should grow through encouraging entrepreneurs, expanding economic development, and improving small business,” Gudger, R-Cullman, said. “They should not try to expand their budgets by writing traffic citations and speeding fines in excess.”

The bill has received bipartisan support and is being carried in the House by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham. Givan said it will “bring more transparency to the process and make municipalities more accountable.”

The bill exempts Class 1 municipalities from this rule. Birmingham is the state’s only city currently classified as a Class 1 municipality.

Ticket fee revenue above 10% of a city’s annual budget would be distributed to the Fair Trial Tax Fund and the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, which assists victims and their families with medical, counseling and funeral costs.

Gudger’s is one of several bills following the recent scandal in Brookside, Alabama, where many lawsuits over police supposedly exploiting the poor are still pending. AL.com reported in January that Brookside was receiving over half of its revenue from fines and forfeitures.

Gudger said that he surveyed many Alabama municipalities and found that most of them only receive 1-6% of their yearly budget from these fees and fines.

The Senate voted Tuesday to pass the bill with no members opposing.

Kayla Bass, director of External Affairs for the Alabama League of Municipalities, said the League was in communication with Gudger and other sponsors.

“We are monitoring the legislation and working with Sen. Gudger, as well as our municipalities, to determine the impact that the legislation may have on them,” Bass said.

There are only four days left in the legislative session.

Separately, a bill from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, requiring municipalities to make public information about how much money they collect from fees and fines is awaiting a final House vote.

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