Bridge fine bill passed in committee

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.