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Legislature kills more major bills than it passes

May 12, 2000
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 763, SB 858, SB 934, SB 1053, SB 678

JEFFERSON CITY - In tune with the whole session's theme, the Missouri Legislature Friday killed more major bills than it approved.

Finishing with the lowest number of bills passed in anyone's memory, the legislature closed Friday having slayed a death penalty exemption for the mentally retarded, a proposal lowering the blood alcohol content for DWI to .08, a bill regulating HMOs, and a bill to bolster the state's open records law.

As for passage, the Assembly approved measures banning police pullovers baced on race and creating a state list of names telemarketers can't call.

Despite the low production and the overriding partisan hostility of the session, the Governor and the Democratic leadership hailed the session a success.

The death penalty bill, tacked on to a measure giving prosecutors and judges big boosts in retirement pay, was killed by a Senate filibuster. Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence, talked the bill to death over a bonus to a St. Francois county prosecutor.

The BAC bill died in the Senate after gaining House approval late last night. Bill sponsor Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, never sought Senate approval Friday, thereby killing the bill like he did a similar measure last year.

The HMO bill, which would have punished HMOs for not paying their bills and allowed doctors and patients to sue, died under the Senate's old tradition as well. Sen. Larry Rohrbach, a California Republican, filibustered the bill over objections to its provision mandating that HMO's pay for women to see OB/GYNs.

Sen. Sarah Steelman, a Rolla Republican, talked the open records bill to death.

The measure's sponsor, Sen. Joe Maxwell said Steelman never approached him with her concerns about the legislation.

"She decided to become a majority of one and deprive the people of Missouri of opportunity to gain better access to their government," said the Mexico Democrat.

Rep. Rita Days, D-St. Louis County, steered the racial profiling bill through the legislature, achieving its final approval Friday. The sponsorship was her last action as a member of the House.

A tearful Days--ousted by term limits--was applauded on the floor after the bill's passage.

The measure requires police to record the race and gender of each person they pull over on the road. The data will be compiled annually and analyzed by the Attorney General to determine if minorities are discriminated against by police.

The telemarketing bill, marshalled by Rep. Don Kissell, D-St. Peters, creates a list of persons who don't want to be called by telemarketers. The fine for knowingly calling anyone on the list to make a sale is a fine of up to $5,000.

The story chasing this bill through the process has been who was exempt from the penalties. Non-profits are still exempt as are political candidates. However, language seeking to protect small businesses was toughened dramatically in conference.

As sent to the governor, only in-home businesses calling to set appointments and calls to make sales from referrals are exempt.

At a post-session news conference, Gov. Mel Carnahan trumpeted the $2.25 highway construction bond measure as his top achievement even though he promised in his State of the State Address that he wouldn't place future generations of Missourians in debt.

That promise was an attack on U.S. Rep. Jim Talent's highway proposal--a proposal which relies on $10 billion in bonds. Talent is the presumptive GOP candidate for governor.

Much of the post-session talk focused on why the legislature was so stagnated. Democrats blamed the Republicans for stalling the process so Carnahan and other Democratic candidates couldn't notch successes they could boast of in the coming campaign. Republicans pointed the finger at the Democratic majority who, after all they said, have the power to set the agenda and control debate.