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A partly confused Missoula City Council on Monday adopted a "social host" ordinance - and then a couple of councilors quickly called for a redo.

"I didn't understand that (we were voting on the ordinance)," said Councilman Jon Wilkins. "I thought we were doing an amendment."

"I was confused also," said Councilwoman Marilyn Marler. "I thought that we would have a chance to make amendments."

So right after the council voted 6-5 at its regular meeting to adopt a version of the law put forward by Councilwoman Pam Walzer, Mayor John Engen recessed the meeting to find out how to untangle the outcome.

The result in the vote had even the main sponsor, Councilman Dave Strohmaier, in opposition. Strohmaier said he isn't giving up on the more stringent proposal he and a committee worked on for roughly a year.

"I'm not at this point going to to throw in the towel," Strohmaier said.

The social host law would punish adults for hosting parties were young people drink alcohol. At the meeting, Walzer pitched several changes to the version before the council: that the word "underage" be replaced with the word "minor" throughout; to strike the penalty that makes people who are convicted responsible for their enforcement costs; to lower the cost of a first offense from $500 to $100; and to delete mandatory jail time.

That's the ordinance the following councilors voted to support, with Councilman Jason Wiener absent: Marler, Stacy Rye, Walzer, Wilkins, Cynthia Wolken and Bob Jaffe. It's not the one that might end up on the books, though.

When Engen called the meeting back to order, he said councilors had a couple of options for giving the ordinance another go. A supermajority could vote to suspend the rules and immediately reconsider. Or a councilor who already voted in favor of the ordinance could make a motion next week to reconsider.

"I'm far more likely to support reconsideration next week after I have a chance to read this thing," Childers said.

A reconsideration then also requires a supermajority, and after the meeting, Walzer said she believes it's likely to take place. Even she would vote in favor of a motion to reconsider because she doesn't want anyone to feel like they were fooled.

If the conversation does continue next week, Strohmaier is convinced his proposal stands a chance. He doesn't support nixing the penalty that holds people who are convicted accountable for enforcement costs or the weaker punishments Walzer put forward.

"I purposely made the penalties extremely harsh" to cut down on repeat offenses, Strohmaier said.

Last year, Walzer pleaded guilty to a DUI per se, and she said she learned some convictions mean people are forbidden to go to Canada for five years. So she said some outcomes may be heavier than expected.

"Many people who live in Montana work in Canada," Walzer said.

In a conversation more than a week ago, Engen said if forced to break a tie he would support the social host ordinance on the table at the time.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

 

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