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The St. Louis County Caucus filibusters; the House passes a dram shop bill

May 15, 2001
By: Ben Paynter and Maggie Rotermund
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1000

JEFFERSON CITY-Congressional redistricting stalled Tuesday, as the St. Louis County Caucus forced a filibuster in the Senate. In the lower chamber, representatives passed patron liability provisions for bar owners and approved protection for small sum borrowers within the state.

The Republican delegation fought for an amendment to the latest map proposed by the Senate Redistricting Committee. The map in question had received approval from eight of Missouri's nine representatives and the leadership of both the Missouri House and Senate.

Rep. Todd Akin did not sign off on the proposal, but did send a letter assuring that he would not fight the map in court.

"I think that is the sign of a good map--not everyone is 100 percent happy," said Steve Stoll, D-Festus. "This map is compact, contiguous, holds communities of interest and minority districts and has zero deviation."

Sen. Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, proposed the amendment, which would shift voters in Ladue, Creve Coeur and Maryland Heights from the First District into Akin's Second District. It would also give Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo, University City and 7,000 more voters within St. Louis City limits.

"This is euthanizing St. Louis--you have withdrawn its food and water without its consent," said David Klarich, R-St. Louis County. "This map emasculates St. Louis from serving as the voice of the state."

The amendment splits the Republican Caucus in the Senate. Their fragile 18-17 majority is held hostage by the six St. Louis County senators.

"This is a map for the politicians--this is not a map for the people," said Klarich.

In the House, lawmakers approved a bill that would clarify the accountability of bar and restaurant owners when serving alcohol to patrons.

The provision would allow civil suit against bars that serve underage or "obviously intoxicated" patrons, leading to patron injury at or upon leaving the bar.

The bill defines the "obvious intoxication" of patrons as "showing uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction."

Rep. Ralph Monaco, D-Raytown, argued against the bill, saying it lacked "strict liability" for owners.

He said the current intoxication definition leaves a loophole allowing owners to "prove they knew" beyond clear and convincing evidence that a patron was underage or drunk.

"The best thing the dram shop can do under this language is not check IDs," Monaco said.

Other representatives argued against the provision because it excluded the admission on breathalyzer tests in suits against dram shops. They said such a ban would provide a key argument for defense attorneys to weaken drunk driving prosecutions.

The bill, passed 111-20, must now gain final approval from the governor before becoming a law.

Seeking to cap loan fees assessed by small time lenders, representatives also granted final approval to pay day loan legislation. The bill, approved 128-1, is also awaiting gubernatorial approval.