Governor JB Pritzker has signed a measure to set up a pilot program in Cook County that would allow residents below a certain income level to waive their traffic court fees.
Pritzker signed Senate Bill 626. Senate Senator Jacqueline Collins is submitting legislation that will run a pilot program in Cook County to help people pay tolls in traffic courts over the next two years.
The program creates a sliding scale to help people on the poverty line. The less a person earns annually, the higher the percentage of traffic court fees would be waived.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a co-sponsor, said the bill only applies to Cook County but could be expanded if it proves successful.
“This will allow Cook County to launch a pilot program that will provide fee reductions for people who are on or below the poverty line,” said Cassidy. “We as legislators will then work through all of the data we get from this pilot program to produce the most responsive bill from this task force.”
The idea for this law arose from the persistent problem that people cannot pay fees in traffic courts. People who have no disposable income have no way of paying the fees that then cost the state money.
Circuit Clerks have spoken out against the bill because it could affect their local households in the future.
State representative Patrick Windhorst raised the same issue.
“We had to request a fiscal note and there was a statement in the note about the uncertainty about the exact cost of this change,” said Windhorst. “Do we have any idea what impact this amendment will have on government agencies?”
The tax note on Amendment 1 states: “It was determined that the proposed legislation would likely have negative tax implications for the budgets of local district courts, as well as state, county, and municipal entities and law enforcement agencies that share traffic revenue assessments . “
“A reliable estimate of the fiscal impact of this bill is not possible because there is currently no nationwide data on the proportion of defendants in traffic cases who are eligible for a total or partial waiver under the criteria of the bill,” or the dollar amount of the enacted Assessments in the cases that would otherwise have been collected “, it says in the tax return.
Legislature has sent Amendment 2, which only applies to Cook County, to the governor.
Cassidy said this legislation had a good chance of making more money.
“Traffic court judges have found that if someone can’t afford these ratings, they just won’t,” Cassidy said. “It is as likely that this bill could generate revenue as it could generate costs.”
If the pilot program is successful, Illinois could pass similar laws across the country in the future.
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