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Delegate wants government reform panel to study Fairfax ticket issue

Rosalind Helderman

A few days ago, Post reporter Tom Jackman filed a story about how Fairfax police have so far written 17,600 fewer traffic tickets this year than last, a drop that's being attributed to several factors but largely to a new and -- police say, cumbersome -- computerized ticket system. Part of the issue, police say, is that their patrol cars are not equipped with bar code scanners and printers that would speed the ticket-writing process.

Should Gov. Bob McDonnell's government reform commission take up the issue?

That's a proposal from Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). On his blog, Surovell wrote earlier this week about a bill he sponsored that would have added a new $3 fee on tickets issued in Fairfax to help pay for the costs of the equipment. As Jackman related, that bill died during the General Assembly session.

According to Surovell, the proposal died on a party-line vote in a House of Delegates subcommittee. After the vote, members told him they viewed the fee as a tax increase. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) passed the Senate 31 to 9 before it died in the House.

"Those of us who practice in the courthouse have heard all the stories from the police officers on the street. The time it takes to manually type in a ticket, plus write it out by hand, has vastly increased the amount of time it takes to write a ticket. Cops have been turned into data clerks on the side of the road," Surovell writes.

He said he's been urging the Fairfax Board of Supervisors to appropriate money for the bar code scanners and printers.

But he has another suggestion as well: McDonnell's 31-member reform team should look at recommending a fee on Fairfax tickets to pay for the system.

It'll be interesting to see what the reform commission does with ideas like Surovell's. The commission has said it will conduct a series of town hall meetings around the state to collect ideas to improve government, so his will likely be the last suggestion sent their way that wasn't on the original agenda. And, Surovell's fee is indeed a proposal designed to help government run more efficiently (computerized traffic tickets are supposed to be an innovation after all).

But it's also a proposal to collect more money from residents (albeit, those who break traffic laws), not less. And to spend more on services, not less. The commission is supposed to be pursuing efficiencies that do the opposite.

Surovell writes that the consequence of fewer tickets, including a 24 percent drop in tickets for driving while intoxicated, is clear: "More criminals free to break the law."

What are some ideas you'd like to see the reform panel address? We're eager to hear in the comments section.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 9, 2010; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Del. Surovell should also point out that the more traffic tickets there are in Fairfax (particularly DUIs), the more business for his law firm.

Posted by: VABlogger | June 10, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

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