BISMARCKâ€”A bill that would allow cities to increase traffic fines created lengthy debate Thursday among state lawmakers.
House Bill 1278 would allow cities to increase their traffic fines by up to double the state fines. Cities would keep the additional revenue.
Testimony revealed the biggest issue with current fines is they do not act as a deterrent, said Rep. Brenda Heller, R-Beulah. The bill would allow individual communities to set traffic fines with their local experience, she said.
Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, opposed the bill, questioning if it was about safety or generating revenue. If the Legislature wants to look at fines, it should set a statewide standard instead of letting individual cities have their own, he said.
Republican Reps. Vicky Steiner and Nancy Johnson of Dickinson spoke of the increased traffic and violations in the Oil Patch.
â€œWe have a serious safety issue. This bill may not be the solution to that, but we need your help with this,â€ Steiner said. â€œI agree that you want things to be level across the state, but we have a different situation out west right now, and we need your help.â€
Rep. Dwight Wrangham, R-Bismarck, said he sympathizes with the west, but lawmakers are elected to pass laws for the full state.
If lawmakers want to deter traffic violations, the answer is points on a driverâ€™s license, he said.
Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, asked opposing lawmakers why they care what fines cities assess in their city limits.
â€œWhat business is it of yours? Why do all you who continually talk about local control, talk, talk, talk, care about what the fines are in the city of Grand Forks?â€ he said. â€œIt makes no sense to me. What is your interest in speeding in Grand Forks? I donâ€™t understand.â€
Rep. Stacey Dahl, R-Grand Forks, said the Legislature has refused to adjust state fines in the past two sessions.
â€œSo we can talk about wanting uniformity, but we havenâ€™t done anything to address those issues,â€ she said.
Kempenich said he hasnâ€™t seen a bill this session that would increase state fines. Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, said they owe it to the people of North Dakota to have a uniform policy.
Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, said the bill purposely limits how much cities can raise fines.
â€œTraffic fines are not going to be all over the board,â€ she said. â€œIt only makes sense to me every city will raise it as far as they could.â€
The bill passed on a 51-42 vote. It now moves to the Senate.