Senators voted 21-14 Wednesday to allow cities to issue
municipal citations for traffic violations committed on state highways, a move
that opponents contend will siphon money away from schools and could cause a loss
of federal highway money.
Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, led the charge on SB 164. He asked legislators to approve the bill as a corrective measure following a
Supreme Court decision that said city governments didn’t have the authority to
write citations under municipal ordinance if the violation occurred on a state
At issue is the fine money generated from the violation.
When a municipal ordinance is used, 65 percent of the money goes back to municipal
governments. If the ticket is written as a violation of state law, 100 percent
of the money goes to schools. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled last October
that municipalities were improperly directing money to their own budgets and
away from schools.
Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, tried to convince lawmakers
that the bill wouldn’t work as intended. She argued that since the state, not
city governments, set the speed limits for state highways, fine money is directed
by the South Dakota constitution to go to schools. If the measure passed as
drafted, it would result in another lawsuit with the same result, Cutler said.
Sen. Eldon Nygaard, R-Vermillion, suggested the bill could
be amended in the House to give municipalities the authority to set speed
limits on state highways. Sen. Cutler challenged that notion, saying that giving municipalities that power would
result in a loss of highway funding and would cause disputes over whether the
state or the municipality would be responsible for maintain the road.
If passed, it would shift an estimated $1 million annually
away from schools to city governments. The South Dakota Municipal League, an
organization representing city governments, is pushing the legislation. ASBSD
opposes the measure.