BATON ROUGE -- Most of the testimonials on a national speed trap Web site won't be used in any of Louisiana's tourism campaigns.
"Baskin will tear you up," one poster to speedtrap.org wrote about the northeast Louisiana town.
"Woodworth is the equivalent to modern-day highwaymen or pirates," wrote another about the central Louisiana town that is listed as one of the top 50 speed traps in the nation.
Louisiana's reputation as a hotbed for speed traps makes travelers want to avoid this state, said state Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston. So he has authored House Bill 1050 in an attempt to curtail the practice of what he calls "economic abuse by policing power.
"These communities are using it as a business plan. They found a cash cow."
But authorities in the communities identified as speed traps, like Baskin, say the reputation is undeserved.
"I can't control the traffic," said Baskin Interim Police Chief Don Moore. "If they're caught, they're caught. All we're doing is enforcing the law.
"People make it look like all we do is write speeding tickets when we handle all matters dealing with public safety. I can't help it if people get mad. If they can't see a police car and the speed limit signs on the highway, they don't need to be driving to begin with."
Downs said his bill wouldn't restrict police officers from protecting the public or even writing tickets. Instead, it would limit the percentage of income a municipality can derive from writing speeding tickets -- 35 percent for those with a population lower than 1,000, 20 percent for those with populations between 1,000 and 3,000 and 10 percent for those with populations of 3,000 or more.
Any revenue generated above those percentages would have to be turned over to the state Treasury.
A legislative auditor's report released last year shows 87 percent of Baskin's total revenue from 2004 to 2006 came from speeding tickets, the top percentage among 304 Louisiana municipalities.
"That type of legislation is definitely a good way to go; it's similar to steps taken by other states," said Aaron Quinn, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, which sponsors the national speed trap Web site. "If you take away the revenue incentive, there will be fewer tickets written.
"They clearly do it for the money, and Louisiana is up near the top compared to other states."
Moore denies that's the case even though he said he understands the implication of deriving 87 percent of his town's revenue from speeding tickets. "We don't do anything to hide from the public. We're not trying to create revenue. We wouldn't even consider quotas in writing tickets."
Downs doesn't buy it. "The sole purpose of speeding laws and penalties is for public safety, not as a legitimate means to raise money. If you have rural communities collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeding tickets, which we do in Louisiana, then they are clearly using it for a revenue stream."
Downs pointed out that the percentage of revenue from speeding tickets among Baskin's sister communities along Louisiana Highway 15 -- like Gilbert, Mangham and Wisner -- is less than 30 percent.
"The timing is perfect for this bill," he said. "We sent a message to the world with ethics reform in the first special session (last month) that's going to change the perception of our state. We can do the same thing for our image with this bill.
"This is an economic issue," he said. "Speed traps discourage travel and commerce through our state. We want trucks and tourism. It's harmful to our state when we have somebody traveling through our state and it costs them several hundred dollars just to get out of town."