Nixon signs bill setting municipal court limits

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - A new law aimed at reforming Missouri’s municipal court system includes special attention on St. Louis County municipalities. Gov. Jay Nixon signed the bill into law Thursday. Key provisions include a cap on the percentage of a city’s revenue coming from court fees.

St. Louis County municipalities will be capped at 12.5 percent. Municipalities in the rest of the state will be capped at 20 percent.

“Cops will stop being revenue agents and go back to being cops,” said Gov. Nixon.

The lead sponsor of the legislation was State Sen. Eric Schmitt - (R) Glendale. He joined Nixon with other legislators who helped create the new law.

“We will no longer have a system of traffic schemes and tricks of taxation by citation where the principal goal is revenue generation,” said Schmitt.

The new law will also cap fines for minor traffic offenses at $300 and give poor offenders the option of performing community service.

Penalties for municipalities failing to comply with the new law include loss of revenue and the possibility of giving citizens the opportunity to vote for disincorporation.

Following the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, Gov. Nixon appointed a commission to process community feedback and make recommendations. The committee’s co-chairs are pleased with the new law and are optimistic the public and find common ground on other issues.

“They’ve already begun to come together around police training and officer wellness proposals. They’ve already begun to come together on issues of economic inequality,” said Rich McClure, Ferguson Commission Co-Chair.

“We’ve got to continue to work on racial and ethnic diversity issues in our community. We have to continue to work on educational and economic inequity,” said Rev. Starsky Wilson, Ferguson Commission Co-Chair.

Not everyone is pleased with the new law. Some smaller municipalities fear the cap will cripple their budgets. Paul Berry III has established an exploratory committee for a congressional run.

“We haven’t addressed what happens to the guy walking on the streets of Ferguson,” said the north St. Louis County resident. Berry did praise lawmakers for finding common ground, but feels the legislation doesn’t go far enough.