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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Senate maneuver won't stop legislation

Thursday, April 22, 2004

You've got to give it to the Democrats in the Missouri Senate who on Wednesday outmaneuvered their Republican counterparts and quickly adjourned the Senate for the day when the GOP members were caught napping. In a legislative sense, their actions will not change anything. In a political sense, they won a point.

The Senate is in a heated debate over a bill that would limit injury lawsuits in Missouri. Backed by the trial lawyers, the Democrats and Gov. Bob Holden strongly oppose the bill. The Republicans strongly favor the legislation.

So on Wednesday around noon, the Democrats were filibustering (stalling) final action on the bill. During that boring process, virtually no one remains in the Senate chambers. Well the handful of Democrats present looked around and saw none of their GOP colleagues. And so they seized power and adjourned the debate for the day since they had a majority of those present.

GOP members made a mad dash to the Senate chambers but it was too late. Adjournment had been called and the boys and girls went home for the rest of the day.

In short, the Democratic move was political grandstanding. But they adjourned within the framework of Senate rules and so hopefully, the GOP learned a lesson.

Here's how this story will likely end. The Republicans will eventually approve the lawsuit limits and send it to the House. It will also likely be approved there and sent to the governor. And Holden will - as he did last year - veto the bill and further assure his political demise. The trial lawyers will be happy.

The legislation supported by the GOP would impose new restrictions on where lawsuits can be tried and the amount of money juries can award for pain and suffering. It would reform lawsuits for injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, libel and slander cases.

There's a lesson to be learned from the Senate action Wednesday. Unfortunately at this point, I'm not at all certain what that lesson might be.

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