Following a recent court ruling that found local traffic diversion classes to be illegal, State Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) is authoring legislation that addresses how Minnesota should handle unauthorized programs in the future, as well as the people who had their money illegally taken from them by local governments.
“Make no mistake, the local units of government that profited from these illegal programs did so out of greed,” Drazkowski said. “Despite the State Auditor repeatedly telling them traffic diversion classes were illegal and the State Legislature specifically authorizing a program that allowed local governments to keep a portion of fines from traffic violations, these municipalities chose to break state laws so they could continue their extortion racket. In doing so, they violated Minnesota’s Constitution and the public’s trust.”
In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature gave local governments the authority to implement administrative citation programs for certain limited traffic violations. It set the fine for administrative traffic tickets at $60. Of this amount, $40 is to be kept by local governments and $20 is to be sent to the State of Minnesota. Under this law, the traffic incidents are not reported to the state, preventing them from going on a driver’s record and from being discovered by auto insurers.
Drazkowski said some local governments thought they could ignore this law by continuing their own “traffic diversion programs” for similar offenses. Under these programs, the driver who broke a traffic law had the choice to either pay the state fine, or else pay a locally-set fee to attend a driving class offered by the city or county. Upon the program’s completion, the driver would not have the offense on his or her record, while the local government kept all of the fee proceeds.
Counties cited as operating illegally include Sibley, Kandiyohi, Meeker, and Wright. Counties that voluntarily halted the practice include McLeod and Renville. Cities cited as operating the program illegally include Buffalo and Howard Lake. Fairfax is among the cities cited as closing the operation.