Bridge fine bill passed in committee

Capitol news bureau

The state would be banned from collecting fines from motorists who failed to pay to use the Crescent City Connection between Jan. 1 and May 4 under a bill approved Wednesday morning by the Senate Transportation Committee.

The measure, Senate Bill 218, won approval without objection. It next faces action in the full Senate.

A Nov. 6 election on whether to continue the tolls was nullified by 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant, of Baton Rouge. A new election is set for May 4.

State Sen. J. P. Morrell, D-New Orleans and sponsor of SB218, said toll collections should have ended on Dec. 31.

However, violations issued between Jan. 1 and March 4 total $482,869 and about $48,000 of that has been paid to the state Department of Transportation and Development.

The bill would make the remaining $434,844 null and void. It does not address how to handle the $48,000 in penalties already paid.

Even without the bill, Morrell said, it would be difficult for the state to collect the fines. “There is definitely a serious legal issue,” he said.

DOTD’s website says how the state will decide how to handle fines between Jan. 1 and when collections were stopped on March 4 will be decided after the May 4 election.