Forum editorial: Another hit on local authority
In yet another demonstration of ham-handed interference in local matters, the North Dakota Senate defeated a bill that would have allowed cities to raise traffic fines. Next time your local state senator sings the praises of local control, remind...
In yet another demonstration of ham-handed interference in local matters, the North Dakota Senate defeated a bill that would have allowed cities to raise traffic fines. Next time your local state senator sings the praises of local control, remind the lawmaker of the 13-34 defeat of House Bill 1278 that sought to allow cities to increase fines up to double the state's rate for violations such as speeding and running stoplights. The issue appears to be dead for this legislative session, but cities should begin a campaign now to reassert their authority in the 2013 session.
The arguments against the legislation ranged from shallow to ridiculous. Opponents said the bill was an attempt by cities to raise revenue. Well, duh! Of course higher fines will raise more revenue. Why is a legitimate function of local government viewed as a sin? If higher fines for violating traffic laws generate more revenue, so be it. Every city in the state could use more revenue for public safety. What better way to raise revenue for traffic control than from traffic fines?
A "no" voter on the bill said he didn't want a "patchwork quilt" of fines across the state. Why not? Every city should have the latitude to adjust its fines to its needs and traffic circumstances. Traffic conditions in Fargo are not the same as traffic conditions in Wishek.
Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, was one of the sensible voices in the traffic fines bill debate. She said the bill was not introduced to provide more money for cities, even if that might be one possible outcome. The primary purpose was to deter lawbreakers by making it expensive to violate traffic laws. As it stands now, the fines in some cities are so low they are the butt of jokes.
But traffic violations are not funny. Speeding and running stoplights and stop signs pose risks to life and property. The relative danger escalates the larger the city and the heavier the traffic volume. Elected city officials in concert with police departments are best qualified to determine how to control traffic by use of speed limits, street design and traffic fines. Legislators are not.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.