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After state Supreme Court ruling, what's next for municipal reform in Missouri?

Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy stands near a grassy path near South Florissant Road. She says a new state law limiting traffic fine revenue will make it harder for her city to pay for new sidewalks.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy, pictured here in 2015, says Missouri lawmakers need to let cities make changes on their own.

A top Democratic backer of the effort to limit fines and fees in St. Louis County believes Missouri lawmakers will have to play a role in forcing cities to change.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out parts of a 2015 law that capped the amount of money cities could make from fines and fees and required them to meet minimum standards like having an accredited police department. 

The legislation had set the maximum in St. Louis County at 12.5 percent. The court capped fines and fees statewide at 20 percent of annual local budgets.


The court's decision surprised state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a sponsor of the 2015 legislation, which was the General Assembly’s main attempt to deal with the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson in 2014. Nahseed, D-St. Louis, promised to work with Democrats and Republicans next year to pass a bill that could survive a court challenge.

“It should be uniform,” Nasheed said. “We have municipality after municipality after municipality, and we don’t want them to be doing anything different than the other.”

But mayors from the 12 cities that sued to block the law said Jefferson City needs to back off.

“Let us work it out,” said Mary Carter, the mayor of Pagedale. “Because we are. We know what our residents want. And they’re so far away from reality, they don’t know what goes on in our municipalities.”

Viola Murphy, the mayor of Cool Valley, said lawmakers need to remember that it was the cities that came up with many of the minimum standards that found their way into the legislation.

“We’ve been doing the minimum standards all along,” Murphy said. “The only thing we wanted was to be treated fairly.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter:@rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.