The Pennsylvania Senate could follow the House of Representatives this week in approving a bill that would transfer Traffic Court operations to Municipal Court.
Last week, the House voted 114-81 to allow Municipal Court judges and hearing examiners to handle Traffic Court cases.
Among local lawmakers, the measure was supported by Reps. Tom Murt (R-152nd dist.), John Sabatina Jr. (D-174th dist.) and John Taylor (R-177th dist.).
Opposing the legislation were Reps. Steve McCarter (D-154th dist.), Ed Neilson (D-169th dist.), Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.), Kevin Boyle (D-172nd dist.), Mike McGeehan (D-173rd dist.), James Clay (D-179th dist.), Mark Cohen (D-202nd dist.) and Dwight Evans (D-203rd dist.).
If the Senate passes the bill, Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign it. The law would take effect in 60 days.
In January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a grand jury indictment of 12 people affiliated with Traffic Court, including nine current or former judges. Three of those judges already have pleaded guilty.
The charges stemmed from family and friends of judges and employees being acquitted for moving violations at a much higher rate than the general public.
Also last week, the House passed a bill by a count of 117-81 that would eliminate Traffic Court from the state Constitution. Murt, Sabatina and Taylor favored the bill, while the other local legislators were opposed.
The Senate voted 50-0 in February to dissolve Traffic Court.
To become law, that bill must pass the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions and pass a statewide referendum. The earliest that could happen would be the spring of 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican, sponsored both bills.
“Philadelphia Traffic Court is widely known as an institution where people are treated differently based on who they are or who they know,” he said. “That kind of unfairness cannot be tolerated, particularly not in our courtrooms. I applaud the House for taking action on both of these bills.”
Pileggi said the Senate is expected to vote this week on the bill to transfer Traffic Court responsibilities to Municipal Court.
If Corbett signs it into law, the current vacancies on Traffic Court will not be filled, and Municipal Court will immediately begin the process of creating a Traffic Division.
That means there will be no races for Traffic Court on the November ballot. Democrats Omar Sabir, Donna DeRose and Marnie Aument-Loughrey won the May 21 primary. The two Republican candidates are Chris Vogler and Ella Butcher. ••