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Chairman kills a major anti-drunk driving plan for 1999

April 06, 1999
By: Maria Andres
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 18

JEFFERSON CITY - The chairman of the Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, has killed the Senate version of the major anti-drunk driving issue for 1999 -- a proposal to lower the current blood alcohol content, BAC, from 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent.

The proposal was approved by committee on March 3 and combined with two other bills, including a ban on open alcoholic containers in cars and an enforced punishment for drivers with a BAC above 0.18 percent.

Although approved by his committee, the chairman -- Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Buttler -- has refused to report the bill to the full Senate.

Caskey's action in holding the bill hostage, leaves little chance that this year's legislative session can take any significant action against drunken driving.

Under Senate rules, it is up to a committee chairman to decide when, if ever, to report to the full chamber bills approved by the committee. Until a bill is reported to the full chamber, it cannot be considered by the chamber. The longer the delay in reporting a bill out of committee, the longer the list of other bills that get reported out from other committees.

With less than two months left in the legislative session, there is little chance now for the anti-drunk driving bill, even if Caskey would report out the bill.

On three different occasions, Caskey refused comment about his action or why had not reported the bill out to the full chamber. An aid to Caskey suggested a similar bill in the House could be used to deal with the DWI issue. But that bill has yet to be reported to full House -- giving it even less of a chance for passage.

One of the bill's co-sponsors, Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, expressed disappointment in Caskey's action.

"For me, alcohol related bills should be a tough priority, but Caskey has to make the decision on his own," said Westfall. "The next question is what are we going to do about it."

Westfall said he might consider trying to attach the issue to another bill awaiting action in the Senate.