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Governor proposes study of court fines and fees

Gov. Bob McDonnell suggests a smaller slice of local fines and fees going to the state budget than a General Assembly proposal, but he also wants a comprehensive study of the traffic enforcement issue that has pitted local officials against state bureaucrats and legislators.

At the heart of the dispute is local traffic court money, especially from high volume traffic courts like Hopewell, Fairfax City, Falls Church and Emporia.

State lawmakers suggested taking a portion of the local fines and fees when the local revenue exceeded 40 percent of all (state plus local) fines and fees. McDonnell would amend the budget to make the trigger point 50 percent.

McDonnell also urges a $200,000 study of the entire fines and fees system and how it relates to the State Literary Fund. Under the state Constitution, all fines for offenses against the state go to the school fund. Localities keep fines for local charges.

McDonnell proposes a study by the State Inspector General, who reports to the governor.

The study proposal follows close on the heels of renewed controversy over a speed enforcement unit run by the Hopewell city sheriff, who claims his program is being unfairly targeted by the AAA, state legislators, and the head of the state police.

John W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, said he welcomes the study. “It will allow time for all sides to slow down, take a breath and look at what’s really happening,” he said.

By Peter Vieth

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