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Stream Calls For Changes In State Laws Regarding Traffic Fines

Rick Stream
Parth Shah | St. Louis Public Radio

Rick Stream, the Republican nominee for St. Louis County executive, is promising to use his influence to persuade the General Assembly to change state laws  to make it harder for communities to collect so much money from traffic violations.

Stream, a state legislator, told reporters in a conference call Monday that he’d first seek stronger enforcement of current state law. That now bars cities from collecting more than 30 percent of their income from traffic fines. Any excess is supposed to be turned over to the state, but authorities have acknowledged that the law often hasn’t been enforced.

Stream's ultimate goal would be to reduce the income cap to 20-25 percent. Stream said he also wants the excess income turned over to the state to be earmarked for public education.

But when asked, Stream acknowledged that his proposals would require action by the General Assembly. He could make no changes on his own, if elected county executive.

“I would lead on the issue,’’ Stream said. He added that he’d also seek cooperation from some of the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, many of which rely on traffic-fine income to pay for their regular operations.

“Bringing people together to solve this problem is the way to do it,’’ Stream said.

Stream said he’d also try to persuade legislators to change the law so that violators could pay their fines through community service, rather than cash. The fines have landed some low-income violators in jail, making it harder for them to pay the penalties.

His Democratic rival, County Councilman Steve Stenger, dismissed Stream’s proposals as meaningless. “If Mr. Stream was really concerned about the traffic ticket schemes he would have addressed it when he was a state representative instead of passing laws that allow for the open carry of assault weapons,’’ Stenger said in a statement.

Stream said he also would ask state Auditor Tom Schweich, a fellow Republican, to monitor the municipalities more closely to ensure they are complying with current state law.

Schweich already has launched an investigation examining the finances of 10 small municipalities, including the St. Louis County communities of Ferguson, Bella Villa, Pine Lawn and St. Ann. He also plans to look at the courts in Foristell in St. Charles County, as well as Foley and Winfield in Lincoln County.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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