Senate give final passage to MOHELA plan
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Senate give final passage to MOHELA plan

Date: April 25, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 389

JEFFERSON CITY - "Crap," "embarrassing," "ridiculous" and "appalling" were just four words Democrats used to voice their opposition Wednesday before the Senate overwhelmingly gave final passage to the plan to sell off some of the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

The bill passed with a vote of 23-11, with every Republican voting yes except Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, and with every Democrat voting no except Sens. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Springs, Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, and Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis.

Coleman, the Senate minority leader, had continuously voiced her disapproval of Sen. Gary Nodler's wide-spanning higher education bill that includes the MOHELA plan, last week saying that the "Senate is dead" because of the political maneuvers that have been used to pass this bill.

Though the bill passed with a two-thirds vote, the "emergency clause" only received a vote of 20-13 with every Democrat and Bartle voting no. Because of this, House Bill 16, the bill that lists the buildings that will be funded by MOHELA assets will expire before funds can be distributed.

However, Nodler said he is not worried about this because Wednesday morning the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a re-appropriations bill that expires in June 2009 and includes the MOHELA list. The buildings at UM-Kansas City and MU that were removed last week are still missing from the bill, but when the bill comes before the Senate.

The failure of the "emergency clause" causes scholarship distribution to be delayed, Nodler said.

Though Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said he might have filibuster this bill for the third time, he said he would not to because it might cause more harm. The cancer hospital was taken out last week because of his filibuster.

"I'm going to let it go," Graham said, "and send this piece of crap to the House and pray that they have more sense than this body." 

Five Democratic Senators stood up to speak on their disapproval of the bill, with Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, calling the legislation "a big pork buffet."

"It's sad to me that the money that our constituents have paid in a private relationship with a board are now being taken over by the state," Bray said adding that other boards might be at risk of some "greedy legislator" might taking their assets and taking "away their original goal."

Nodler refuted these claims saying that education leaders have called his bill "the most important piece of higher education legislation in two decades."

"It represents a commitment to the future of higher education," Nodler said.

The bill gives more power to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, creates a new scholarship fund and prohibits a Missouri university from turning away potential political science pofessors who do not have a post-graduate degree as long as they have spent eight years or in the General Assembly.

The passed version of the bill includes the creation of a new program called the "Missouri Teaching Fellows Program," which is similar to the popular post-graduation program, "Teach For America." It would offer seniors in high school loan forgiveness if they receive an education degree and then teach in an unaccredited rural or urban school for four years.

The creator of the program, Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, has said that this will help bring bright minds and new ideas into failing schools.

Smith also authored a change to the bill that changes the Bright Flight scholarship program and expands the ones eligible from the top 3 percent of graduating seniors to the top 5 percent. Students who graduate in the fifth percentile will receive $1,000 a year and those in the third percentile will receive $3,000 a year. This will begin in 2011, which some Senators criticized as waiting too long for a change.

The bill be passed in the House before it can go to the governor and become law. There are three weeks left in the session.