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Filibuster Forces Senate Compromise.

February 27, 1996
By: Joseph Morton
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill raising current state speed limits might finally see the light of day after its chief opponent in the Missouri Senate received concessions Monday night (Feb. 26).

The bill, drafted in a conference committee as a compromise between conflicting Senate and House speed limit legislation, made its way to the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

But once the bill was on the floor, Sen. Harold Caskey immediately began a widely-anticipated filibuster of the bill.

Caskey said he could not support the conference bill because senators on the conference committee did not stand up for "the Senate view."

The Senate version had a number of differences from the conference bill. Caskey said two provisions of the bill prompted him to hold up Senate business.

The first was a section of the bill that allowed most county governments to regulate speed limits on state highways within their borders. Caskey said testimony from a county lobbyist during the conference committee meeting led him to believe this would pave the way for increased speed traps by counties looking for more revenue.

Caskey also wanted a four-lane stretch of U.S. 71, which runs through his district south of Kansas City to have a speed limit of 70. Under the conference committee bill this stretch would have had a limit of 65.

After Caskey held the floor for some five hours, he and Senate leaders met behind closed doors and worked out a compromise by which the Senate sent the bill back to conference committee. The Senate also bound its representatives to only raise the limit on U.S. 71 and delete the county speed limit language.

Sen. Danny Staples, D-Emminence, said the move was the best thing for the state, in order to get some form of speed limit legislation passed.

"I'm real happy we worked out an agreement the bill's House sponsor can live with," Staples said.

The bill's House sponsor Rep. Larry Thomason, D-Kennett, also was included in the compromise negotiations. He said he will make a motion in the House tommorow to send the bill back to conference committee. He said, however, that he is unsure whether he has the votes to support such a motion.

If the legislature does not pass some form of legislation by April 2, Missouri's speed limits will revert back to those before the federal limits of the mid-1970s. These are higher than both current limits and those included in the conference committee bill.

Caskey's leverage in the Senate was the result of this deadline. The senator, who favors the old limits, told reporters after session Monday night that if he had not received his concessions, he was prepared to continue filibustering until the April 2 deadline.

Caskey said there are many things in the bill he does not agree with, but the two main concessions were the only ones he was willing to filibuster for weeks to achieve.