Counties seek money from traffic fines

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

County law enforcement officials who spend time ticketing speeders are supporting a bill in the Legislature that would add a $5 surcharge to the fine and deposit that money in county treasuries.

Under current law, if a state trooper issues a ticket, the money goes to the state. If a police officer makes a stop under a city ordinance, the city and state split the fine, with 90 percent going to the city and the rest to the state.

But when county deputies issue tickets, that money all goes to the state.

"There's no vehicle for the county to get anything," said Bremer County Sheriff Dewey Hildebrandt.

County law enforcement officials said they're obligated to stop speeders on rural highways, but that makes for an unfunded drain on their resources - especially during a time when state budget cuts have led the Iowa State Patrol to reduce the number of troopers patrolling the roads.

The House Ways and Means Committee last week approved House File 2456, which would give county supervisors the ability to attach a $5 surcharge to scheduled traffic citations issued by county sheriff's offices. The money would go into county general funds.

It's "not only a monetary issue for them but also an issue of equity," said Rep. Lance Horbach, R-Tama, the sponsor of the bill.

In 1997, several Iowa counties tried to generate revenue from speeding citations and failed. Those counties wanted to make speeding a county violation - similar to a city's code - instead of a state violation. But the state said such a move was illegal.

"We've been festering about this for years," Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning said.

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