ND Legislature Hall Of Shame Week 3: Rep. Bob Skarphol

skarphol

This week’s Hall of Shame honoree is Rep. Bob Skarphol of Tioga. Skarphol is the sponsor of HB1189, which would seek to target out-of-state drivers with larger speeding fines than in-state drivers while rewarding law enforcement agencies who target out-of-state drivers over in-state drivers with the revenues from the tickets they write.

Here’s the text:

Not withstanding any other provision of law, if an operator of a vehicle is stopped for a violation of section 39-09-02 or equivalent ordinance, the operator is the registered owner of the vehicle, and there is evidence that the operator is gainfully employed in this state, the fee for the violation is the higher of the fee in section 39-06.1-06 or equivalent ordinance, or the highest fee, fine, or bond for a speed limit violation at any speed and location in the home state. The superintendent of the highway patrol shall provide a schedule of the highest fees, fines, or bonds for other states every two years and make the schedule available to police officers. A determination of the highest fee by the superintendent is deemed to be the highest fee. If the fee, fine, or bond in the other state is higher than in this state, the difference is assessed as a special fee for deposit in the state treasury. The state treasurer shall distribute monthly the special fees deposited in the state treasury for a citation issued by a county police officer to the sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred and for a citation issued by the highway patrol to the operating fund of the highway patrol. All fees deposited in the state treasury under this section are appropriated on a continuing basis for distribution as provided in this section.

To say that this is parochial pandering is an understatement. Angst in western North Dakota is running high what with the influx of oil activity, oil workers and commerce that have made formerly sleepy communities busy and crowded. That has bred some resentment, and Skarphol seems to be aiming to fan the flames of that resentment with legislation targeting the much-maligned “out of staters.”

But it’s not just rank pandering that makes this bill bad. It’s that it would provide incentive for uneven application of the law. Rewarding law enforcement agencies for targeting one group of people over another is bad policy.

Plus, it’s almost certainly unconstitutional. Virginia, at one time, had a law which did the reverse of Skarphol’s. It actually raised speeding fines on in-state drivers, leaving out-of-state drivers alone. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled it illegal, a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

“A ‘dangerous’ driver is a ‘dangerous’ driver, whether he or she is a life-long resident of Virginia or simply passing through on his or her way to another state or county,” Judge Archer Yeatts wrote in the decision. “The court rejects the speculations postulated by the commonwealth, and mindful of its obligation to do so, has exhausted its speculation quotient in trying to conceive of any others that would be a rational basis for the distinction between resident and non-resident ‘dangerous drivers.'”

For these reasons, Rep. Skarphol is our week three Hall of Shame inductee.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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