- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Senate voted unanimously Thursday to bar cities, counties and law enforcement agencies from setting traffic ticket quotas, responding to criticism that some communities have been too reliant on raising money from issuing these and other types of citations.

The bill would make it a crime for a public official to require any police officer to write a certain number of citations and prohibit supervisors from suggesting that subordinates issue more tickets.

Its St. Louis-area sponsors, Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt and Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, said it builds on other measures passed in response to the unrest that stemmed from the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Last year, Missouri enacted a law lowering the percentage of revenue cities can collect from traffic fines. And earlier in the current session, the Senate passed a bill capping the fines for local ordinance violations. That bill and the one passed Thursday now head to the House for consideration.

Cities’ traffic fines have come under scrutiny since a white police officer shot and killed Brown, an unarmed black teenager. That incident didn’t involve a traffic stop, but afterward, protesters pointed to excessive citations as evidence of police harassment in predominantly black communities. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice cleared the officer of wrongdoing but said Ferguson’s municipal court system was profit-driven and frequently targeted blacks.

Schmitt said politicians shouldn’t be pressuring police to bring in more revenue.

Nasheed said there are too many cities in St. Louis County whose budgets depend on traffic tickets and ordinance citations. She said the legislation might lead to some municipalities dissolving, but that’s “not my problem.”

“If you have to sustain your budget on the backs of poor people by way of citations and ordinances, the question is: Should you even be in existence?” Nasheed said.

During Senate debate last week, Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal praised the legislation and said she hoped it wouldn’t interfere with the Ferguson Police Department’s agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to overhaul its policies.

Nasheed said the overwhelming Senate vote gave her hope that other Ferguson-inspired legislation, such as requiring body cameras for police, could garner bipartisan support this year.

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Traffic ticket quota bill is SB765

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Online:

Senate: https://www.senate.mo.gov

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Follow Adam Aton on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AdamAton

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