Traffic fines for charity? A petition aims to redirect fine money.

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Supporters of an initiative that would withhold all traffic fines and forfeitures from the state government are approved to seek petition signatures to place the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

Steve Kerbel, one of the measure's backers, says the "Stop the Shakedowns" campaign wants to redirect fines, forfeitures and other financial penalties away from government and into the hands of charities.

According to a fiscal impact statement provided by the state on the Colorado Secretary of State's Office website, the initiative would decrease state revenue by $256.2 million in fiscal year 2018-19 and $332.7 million in fiscal year 2019-20, with ongoing decreases in future years.

Here's his description of the measure:
Colorado voters are likely to have the opportunity to put an end to financially motivated government enforcement on the November 2018 ballot. "Stop the Shakedowns" is a Colorado issue committee which has passed all requirements to begin petitioning for a statewide ballot initiative which will stop government from receiving the financial benefit of fines, forfeitures or other financial penalties. Instead, if a victim of the action eliciting a fine exists, that victim would receive all of the fine money, up to their total damages. Absent a victim, as in a traffic infraction, the person being fined donates the fine amount to a Colorado charity of their choice. The initiative, filed with the Secretary of State as Issue #53 (until petitioning is complete and a proposition number is assigned), would result in the following:

1) Any conflict of interest due to a financial motivation for enforcement of any law or regulation would be eliminated. The result would be judicious enforcement, and the credibility of enforcement would no longer be called into question. The result would be a more peaceful relationship between the people of Colorado and our law enforcement. Transparent financially motivate enforcement such as speed traps would no longer exist.

2) Victims have a minuscule amount of restitution from fine revenue, however less than 5% of this money actually gets in their hands now with our existing state programs. After this becomes law, a victim will receive up to 100% of the fine.

3) Hundreds of millions of additional dollars in the hands of charities each year will do much more to sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, and addressing myriad other societal problems in Colorado. This will result in safer communities and better assistance for people in need.

4) The public will be reminded that the people still have a voice in how government is managed, instead of feeling helpless as most people do now. The people making ground rules for government is not something seen very often since the drafting of the bill of rights.

5) Police officers will benefit, as the majority of police took their jobs to serve their communities. Today, their employers have required them to devote much of their time toward generation of revenue rather than community service.
Kerbel describes himself as a former CEO of insurance businesses and a Libertarian who competed for the presidential nomination in 2015 but dropped out.

He says the measure is aimed at municipalities as well as the state and contains language that would sidestep cities' home-rule status, if it passes. Colorado Springs is a home-rule city. It's expecting to collect $5.2 million in fines in 2018, although not all fines are related to traffic enforcement.

Kerbel says the measure would create a new law, not amend the state Constitution, meaning signatures on the petitions can come from anywhere in the state; 98,492 signatures are required by March 28, 2018.

"It's still a big job, and we just got started," Kerbel says. "These volunteers are working hard. It's purely grassroots." Asked who's funding the effort, he said there is no big financial backer of the measure.

"We end up with more judicious enforcement, and there is no financial reward for enforcement," he says. "It's going to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless. If they pull you over, it's because you really did something wrong. They just can't keep the money, and that money is going to go to the charity of the victim. There really is no loser here."

Of course, it's easy to see that local and state governments would argue otherwise, since many are already struggling to fund core services. In the Springs, for instance, response times have reached 11 minutes for police, and the mayor has said that he needs more money to properly staff the police force.

Learn more about the measure at www.stoptheshakedowns.com.

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