COLUMBUS -- Legislation that would limit civil traffic fines issued by tiny communities -- namely, a small village in southeastern Franklin County -- was moved by the Ohio House Wednesday.
"I believe this bill address(es) what is a fundamental issue of fairness," said Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), a primary co-sponsor of the bill. "This legislation will ensure our citizens are not falling victims to speed traps and abusive, excessive fines by a different set of rules beyond what the state law prescribes."
House Bill 125 passed on a unanimous vote and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
The bill stems from legislation moved by lawmakers several years ago to abolish mayor's courts in villages with fewer than 200 residents.
"The legislation intended then to put a stop to some rogue village from primarily using speed traps and traffic fines not to enforce the law but just to bring in revenue," Craig said.
But at least one village, Brice in suburban Columbus, found a way to get around the new law, establishing a civil violations system with fines paid directly to the village. Craig said in earlier committee testimony that Brice officials have issued more than 1,000 traffic citations under the new system, some as high as $1,500, with additional penalties for late payments.
The resulting fines are higher than those charged in Franklin County Municipal Court for comparable violations, according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
Craig and Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) offered HB 125 to address the issue, with limits on fees, fines and other charges levied communities with fewer than 200 residents. The bill also would give county or municipal courts jurisdiction over traffic-related ordinances in those smaller communities.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.