Senate gives preliminary passage to MOHELA bill
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Senate gives preliminary passage to MOHELA bill

Date: April 19, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - More than $46 million of funding to the UM System was axed today when state Senate Republicans pulled a few political maneuvers to give initial passage a bill that would authorize the sale of some of the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan authority.

Though Democrats spent much of Wednesday and a little bit of today trying to block a vote on Sen. Gary Nodler's, R-Joplin, wide-spanning higher education bill that includes the $350 million MOHELA sale, the Republican party eventually prevailed.

At about 12:20 a.m. today the Senate, in a vote of 22-11, gave its initial passage to NodlerÔ019s bill.

When it became apparent that Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, was starting to filibuster, Republicans called a "previous question" motion -- a rarely used political manuver -- and put a halt to debate. This is only the seventh time this has sucessfully happened since the 1970s.

The "previous question" motion to stop debate on Nodler's bill passed 20-13 with every Republican voting yes except Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit. The bill was then voted on and passed 22-11 with every Republican except Bartle voting yes and only one Democrat voting yes -- Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Independence.

The bill not only authorizes the sale of MOHELA but also punishes universities for raising tuition passed the national consumer price index, gives more authority to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and create a new financial aid program.

Once they gave initial approval to the bill that they had spent more than nine hours debating, the Senate quickly moved to adopt an amended appropriations bill that lists all the projects that will be funded by the MOHELA sale, which also passed 20-13.

Excluded from the list were a $31 million project slated to go to build the UM System's Ellis Fischel Cancel Center at MU and a $15 million allocation to a Pharmacy Building at the UM-Kansas City. The projects are in districts of Graham and Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, who lead the filibuster against Nodler's bill.

Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, when the Senate was about to adjourn around 1 a.m. took about 15 minutes on the floor to talk about her disapproval of the political maneuvers that were used to pass Nodler's bill.

"The Senate is now dead and the blood is on your hands," she said.

Coleman added more than 70 percent of Missourians are against the MOHELA plan.

"This is about forcing bad public policy down our throats simply because the governor had a bad idea a year ago and since then the plan has gotten worse and worse."

No Republican rose to respond to Coleman's charges.

The bill must receive final passage in the Senate and be passed in the House before it can become law. Republican House leaders Wednesday could be found watching the prolonged debate from the Senate gallery.