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House avoids vote on lowering drunk driving limits

April 08, 1998
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A procedural trick allowed the House to avoid voting on legislation to lower the blood-alcohol level for drunk driving.

Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, said in order to eliminate a proposed change in the legal limit, he offered an amendment to a bill knowing the amendment would probably kill the bill.

Wednesday Rep. Mike Schilling, D-Springfield, attempted to change the legal alcohol limit from .10 to .08 percent in an amendment to a transportation bill. Instead of letting the House vote on Schilling's amendment, Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, crafted a proposal to replace it.

The House accepted Koller's amendment effectively killing the blood-alcohol change without a direct vote.

Koller said that he offered a legitimate substitute that would help get intoxicated drivers off the road. The amendment would require all cars registered in Missouri to have breathalizer-like devices set at .05 attached to the ignition.

"It wasn't a trick," Koller said. "I have a right to offer amendments just like the other 162 representatives."

Later, Koller said that even though his proposal would probably kill the transportation bill and never become law, it was better than lowering the acceptable limit.

Schilling said his proposal probably died because of election year politics. Koller's amendment allowed representatives to avoid taking a direct stance on drunk driving standards.

"I think there were a lot of people that didn't want to vote on it," Schilling said.

Even though his amendment died, Schilling still has a similar measure working its way through the legislature.

The bill has hit a logjam in Rep. Steve Gaw's office. An assistant to the speaker said the House doesn't have room on it's calendar right now. He said Gaw, D-Moberly, hasn't decided if the chamber will even take up the bill.

If the legislation doesn't hit the floor soon, the session may end before the House has a chance to vote on the issue.

Schilling said that his attempt to add the .08 requirement to another bill was a precautionary tactic in case his bill doesn't make it to the floor.

"Win or lose we need a discussion out there," Schilling said.

Lowering the blood-alcohol level has become a national issue recently. The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would force states to accept the .08 limit or risk losing federal highway funds. The federal bill still needs the approval of the U.S. House of Representatives and President Bill Clinton.

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