JEFFERSON CITY - The penalty for parking illegally in the drive around the Capitol building is a $5 ticket. That doesn't stop some people from doing it.
Most of the drive is lined with spaces for three-hour parking, but some of it is designated for handicapped parking or as a fire lane.
The Capitol Police report that many lobbyists are frequent offenders. Since the beginning of this year, cars registered to St. Louis' chamber of commerce and a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society have racked up 28 tickets between them.
Many of the other frequent violators of the Capitol's parking restrictions are cars that are leased and the driver could not be traced.
Dave Mosby with the Division of Facilities Management said various areas around the Capitol are marked as no-parking zones for safety reasons. A problem frequently arises when the tour buses that must make sharp turns there are sometimes unable to do so.
Mosby said the $5 tickets are the only way the Capitol Police usually enforce the restrictions. He said the police have the power to tow cars that are illegally parked, but typically only do that as a last resort. When cars are towed, it is usually for the safety of the vehicle, he said.
Capitol Police Captain Lou Tedeschi said the parking woes are not uncommon during legislative session.
"It gets this bad every year around this time," he said. "There are more cars than there are parking spaces. But we do our best to keep areas clear."
He said there was a study underway to determine how to improve parking concerns around the building.
Cancer society lobbyist Lynne Schlosser racked up 42 tickets over the last three years.
"A lot of times when I'm working on an issue, I leave (the car) during the day and leave it in the three-hour parking," she said. "But I never park in handicapped parking or a fire lane."
Schlosser insisted the only reason she has ever received a ticket was for exceeding the time limit in a three-hour parking zone, and had never parked in a fire lane or handicapped parking area.
She also said when one of her bills comes up for debate, she can't leave the building to go and move her car from the three-hour zone.
Renee Kelley, of the American Cancer Society's regional office in Kansas City, said Schlosser had been notified that her tickets were becoming a problem.
"We were looking into it. I believe that she has been talked to."
Kelley was quick to assure donors that the cancer society was not paying for the tickets, and had asked her to stop the illegal parking. Kelley said she believed many of the tickets to be the result of special days at the Capitol when Schlosser was ferrying cancer patients into and out of the building and needed to park near the door.
"We're taking care of it, and it should not be a problem in the future," Kelley said.