Repeatedly flouting municipal laws in New Orleans may soon carry a steeper penalty, thanks to a measure signed into law last week by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Act 637 allows the city to raise the maximum penalty that individuals and businesses must pay for violating a variety of ordinances to $1,000, double the previous $500 cap.
The change was proposed as a way to diminish a common practice among some lawbreakers: paying a fine while continuing to ignore the law.
The change applies only in Orleans Parish.
The increase does not apply to penalties for nonmoving or parking violations or for other traffic violations, including ones captured by traffic cameras. But violations of other city ordinances, such as those related to blighted property, would be subject to the higher penalties.
The bill as initially proposed by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would have set the maximum penalty for all fines at $5,000. But it was amended in the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs to establish a $500 maximum penalty for a first offense and a $1,000 punishment for subsequent transgressions.
The legislation won’t result in higher fines immediately. The city administration and the City Council will first have to review the current code and draft ordinances to raise the penalties for individual offenses, a spokesman for the mayor said. They will also decide by how much to raise each fine.
The council passed a resolution in support of the measure in March, before three new members took office. Council President Stacy Head said Tuesday that she still supports the measure.