JEFFERSON CITY - The campaign against drunken driving has scored a major legislative victory.
The measure to lower the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers has been assigned to a committee whose chairman says he supports the measure.
The BAC bill, approved by the House, would lower the legal definition of drunken driving from 0.10 percent blood-alcohol to 0.08 percent.
The measure has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee where it will receive a more favorable treatment than did a similar Senate bill earlier this year.
"I'm looking forward for the hearing of that bill," said the committee's chairman - Sen. Dan Staples, D-Eminence. "I personally support the 0.08 measure."
That is a quite different from the position of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman who delayed several weeks reporting his committee's approval of a similar Senate bill. That delay by Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, killed the Senate version of the BAC bill.
Staples said he will hold a hearing on the House-passed measure next Tuesday. But that may not be quick enough. By the time Staples' committee hears the bill, there will be less than two weeks left in the legislative session and dozens of other bills already awaiting full action by the Senate.
In addition, the House bill is cluttered with a number of other controversial amendments including one to repeal the law requiring motorcycle riders wear helmets.
"It is going to take some time in order to get the bill voted out to the Senate floor. We will look to the amendments very carefully," Staples said.
Further endangering the bill's chances is the position of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville. Koller's original bill dealt only with auto registration. He says he does not support the 0.08 BAC amendment to his bill.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, however, supports the 0.08 measure. Members of the organization have been in the Capitol building to convince lawmakers of the 0.08 BAC initiative.
Despite all the odds against it, one long-time legislative veteran and sponsor of the Senate version of the BAC bill -- Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway -- says it's not too late.
"Nobody, absolutely nobody can tell you that a bill won't pass or will pass because of the time factor. Strange things happens from time to time. Next week is getting a little late but it is not too late."