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.08 bill hits some opposition

February 06, 2001
By: Nick White
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A Senate bill that was declared to be sailing smoothly hit some turbulence Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Peter Kinder has proposed an amendment that would delay by two years the activation of a bill to lower the legal threshold for drunk driving from .10% to .08% blood alcohol content.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, told the Senate that Kinder's amendment would kill the .08 bill he is currently pushing to get past the Senate.

"This is a killer amendment," Westfall said. "This amendment ... if it's not a killer, it's a crippler."

Kinder's amendment proposes to push back the imposition of the .08 standard from August 2001 to August 2003. Kinder voted last year against lowering the standard from .10 to .08.

One senator, Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, asked Kinder to rescind his amendment, but Kinder declined.

Westfall, visibly concerned when Kinder voiced his amendment, said the bill was poised to pass the Senate without much difficulty - until this amendment.

"It was my impression ... that if we took the open container out, this would move forward without much opposition," Westfall told the Senate. "That would be smooth sailing from here."

States that have an open container law, which forbids passengers from having an open container of alcohol, and a .08 law currently receive extra federal money annually for transportation.

Missouri would receive approximately $3 million per year for each of the two bills passed. Beginning in 2003, Missouri would be required to pay fines for not having the laws.

So, Kinder's proposed delay of the law's imposition would prevent several million dollars of revenue coming to Missouri.

"Senator Kinder's amendment alone is $3 million this year," Westfall told reporters.

Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, said, however, that Missouri should not formulate its laws contingent on what the federal government wants.

"Again, it's one more time where we bow down to the big old federal government," Mathewson said, raising his voice.

Mathewson supported Kinder's amendment during discussion but also said he would vote for the .08 bill, regardless of amendments.

"I still support .08, but I also support this amendment," Mathewson said.

Kinder's amendment is one of several that senators are discussing that could potentially affect the .08 bill's passage of the Senate or House.

Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, gave the Senate two amendments to the bill, but he did not officially propose his amendments.

Westfall said the amendments, Caskey's and Kinder's, would undermine his bill.

"All these amendments could kill it," Westfall said. "They don't leave me much of a bill."

One of Caskey's amendments would reintroduce the open container provision back into the .08 bill, which would jeopardize the bill, said Sen. Ted House, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Missouri General Assembly has debated the legal validity of a .08 drunk driving standard for several years in a row. The .08 standard has yet to pass both the House and Senate.

Despite this year's early stumbling blocks to Westfall's bill, the senator said he will persist to get the bill passed.

"Give me some time to talk to my colleagues," Westfall said. "My concern it getting it to a vote."