State bans Riverbank, Newman tickets

Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed a bill into law that stops Riverbank, Newman and a handful of other California cities from issuing their own tickets for minor traffic violations.

Though the governor signed Senate Bill 949 on Thursday, it won't became law until July 1, the start of a new budget year for cities. They can keep issuing administrative tickets until then.

The practice has been a boon for drivers and cities.

Drivers are ticketed for a lower amount, the Department of Motor Vehicles isn't notified and the cities keep all of the money -- instead of getting a fraction back from the state under a standard ticket.

And insurance companies don't learn about the city- issued tickets because the DMV is not notified, giving bad drivers a break on their insurance rates.

The tickets issued by cities are much cheaper than tickets issued under the vehicle code. It costs a driver $100 in Riverbank for rolling through a stop sign. A standard ticket for same offense is more than $220.

Cities can issue administrative tickets only to drivers who violate posted signs, such as speed limits and stop signs. They cannot issue tickets for reckless driving, driving under the influence or red-light violations.

Riverbank and Newman officials say the cheaper tickets are only issued to good drivers and for minor offenses.

The tickets bring in money for the cities when budgets are tight because of the recession and what some cities have called state raids on their budgets. Riverbank expects to collect $80,000 annually from the administrative tickets, Newman about $45,000.

But state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, said her bill puts an end to a dual ticketing practice that leads to confusion and distrust among drivers.

She said the practice also makes it harder to collect accurate data to track unsafe drivers and calculate insurance rates, and puts the state at risk of losing millions in federal transportation dollars.

The bill takes effect July 1 to give cities time to adjust to losing the revenue.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or 578-2316.