Nov 26, 2014 – Weekly Capitol Update

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR TRAFFIC CAMERA CASES

The Missouri Supreme Court on Dec. 2 will hear arguments in three separate cases relating to the legal validity of automated traffic enforcement camera systems. The cases involve red-light camera ordinances in St. Peters and St. Louis City and a speeding camera ordinance in the small North St. Louis County community of Moline Acres.

After the city of Arnold adopted the state’s first red-light camera ordinance in 2005, many Missouri municipalities followed suit and automated traffic enforcement systems soon became common throughout the state. In 2013, however, various panels of the Missouri Court of Appeals began issuing a string of rulings declaring local traffic camera ordinances “void and unenforceable” because they conflict with state law.

In the wake of the appellate court rulings, most Missouri cities suspended operation of their traffic cameras. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of several cities whose camera ordinances had been struck down, thus letting the lower court rulings stand. As a result, the upcoming cases will mark the first time the court has weighed in on the issue.

Although the particulars of these cases vary, the main point found by the Court of Appeals judges revolved around how violations are treated. Under state law, running a red light and speeding are moving violations requiring points to be assessed against a driver’s license. In an attempt to meet a lower burden of proof, however, traffic camera ordinances typically treat alleged camera-captured offenses as non-moving violations with no points assessed. In addition, some ordinances have run afoul of constitutional protections by requiring accused motorists who challenge camera-issued tickets to prove their innocence, instead of requiring prosecutors to prove guilt.

 

LAWMAKERS TO TRY AGAIN ON DERAILED FARM BILL

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said lawmakers will make passing a wide-ranging agriculture bill that failed earlier this year a top priority in 2015, The Associated Press reported on Nov. 23. Dempsey said the Senate will put the bill on a fast track when the General Assembly convenes in January but without a controversial provision relating to captive deer regulations that ultimately killed the measure this year.

The provision in question sought to shift responsibility for regulating captive deer facilities from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture. The captive deer industry contends the conservation department is trying to regulate the industry out of business.

Due to the deer provision, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the omnibus agricultural legislation it was attached to. Lawmakers attempted to override the veto in September in order to save the rest of the bill, but opposition to the deer provision caused the effort to fall one vote short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.

The revised agriculture bill will include state government subsidies for diary producers, liability protections for cattle ranchers whose herds cause injury to others and various other provisions intended to benefit farmers.