CHEYENNE — Citing concerns about increased traffic fatalities and a loss of funding for public schools, lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee decided to scrap a plan that would have significantly lowered fines for speeding on state highways.
House Bill 12 was originally intended to simplify Wyoming’s uniform bond schedule used to write traffic tickets. The fee reductions came later. But at a committee meeting Tuesday morning, a representative of the Wyoming Highway Patrol expressed concern over what impact lower fines would have on road safety.
“We do see that speeds are generally directly involved in fatalities that we investigate,” said WHP administrator Col. Kebin Haller.
The committee was considering reducing fines for driving 5 miles over the speed limit to $20 and cap all possible fines at $800, down from the current $1,000 threshold.
A bill being considered by Wyoming lawmakers would reduce the cost of speeding.
Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, moved to amend the legislation to remove the reduction in fees while leaving the simplification of the bond schedule intact.
“Higher fines are a disincentive to speeding and will have a direct effect on the number of fatalities in this state,” Pelkey said.
(The amendment involved some percentage adjustments that left several lawmakers on the committee, mostly composed of lawyers, stumped. Committee chair Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, was disconcerted. “Attorneys — a troubled group with math,” he said.)
Lowering the speeding fines would also cost the state $1.5 million over the coming budget cycle, according to a fiscal analysis by the Legislative Service Office. Those dollars go toward public schools in Wyoming. The Legislature is currently grappling with an $850 million deficit, about half of which comes from accounts earmarked for education.
“I’m very uncomfortable with this bill’s impact on education,” Pelkey said before his amendment to remove the fee reduction passed.
Several of the committee’s more conservative Republican lawmakers opposed the move to leave the fee level intact.
“I only support this bill because it lowers the fees, so I will be voting no for the amendment — and the bill if (the amendment) passes,” said Rep. Tim Salazar, R-Dubois. He was joined by Reps. Bo Biteman and Mark Jennings, both Sheridan County Republicans.
But Pelkey’s amendment passed and the committee voted to move the remaining bond schedule simplifications. The bill will now be considered by the full House, where more amendments can be imposed.