Legislature should have stalled 1060

It’s not uncommon for Pennsylvania lawmakers to hold public hearings at various locations across the state to gather public input on projects or other proposals.

That’s what should have been done before the Legislature gave its approval to House Bill 1060, which revamped the guidelines involving the 3111A traffic citation dealing with obedience to a traffic control device.

Because the often-used public hearing process and, thus, the prospects of receiving opposing opinions from the public, were ignored last year before the General Assembly passed 1060, counties as well as motorists have been left feeling the sting of the poorly thought-out measure.

But not everyone is unhappy. Those in charge of state finances are smiling as they’re depositing the additional money from the changed fine-and-costs structure into the commonwealth’s accounts.

That additional money is targeted for fixing the state’s infrastructure – a good intention, while providing an additional incentive for drivers to slow down.

It’s helping the state avoid tapping other limited sources for infrastructure-repair revenue, or choosing not to do some work.

Nevertheless, the updating of 3111A could – and should – have been carried out in a way that demonstrated less “me” by the commonwealth.

The financial interests of counties tied to the previous version of the citation should not have been cast aside in the new version. The counties incur costs tied to processing speeding violations.

In the end, 1060’s impact on 3111A was a forecast of the urgency that the Legislature already was feeling last year in regard to this year’s state budget exercise, and the fact that lawmakers would be dealing with a big money shortfall for 2014-15.

Regardless of those troubling state issues, neither counties nor police departments are justified praising 1060.

Motorists likewise.

Those caught speeding, who previously might have been good candidates for the financial break 3111A formerly offered – and for avoiding points – now must look at the new law with some dismay.

While 3111A still gives some offending drivers a way to avoid points, and thus their insurance premiums going up, the much higher fine that the ramped-up citation stipulates could result in many more ticket disputes and, thus, more court proceedings and costs for county court systems.

The former 3111A was a vehicle for fewer ticket disputes while still imposing deserved punishment on offending motorists. Not so much any more.

As an article in the July 13 Mirror reported, through 2013, a 3111A citation resulted in a total cost of $112 to a driver stopped for speeding. That total cost included a $25 fine, a $10 emergency medical services fee and other surcharges.

The outlay for the offending drivers under the new 3111A is $170. The new penalty encompasses a $150 fine, the $10 EMS fee and a $10 judicial computer fee, while taking away money counties had received – and deserved – under the old, lower-cost citation.

Some police officers are unhappy because the new 3111A provides less of an opportunity for them to do their jobs and still give drivers a break.

Pennsylvania lawmakers could have passed a better law, if public hearings had been held on what was being contemplated.

Being desperate for money sometimes clouds good thinking.

That’s evident in this instance.