JEFFERSON CITY — The stage was set Tuesday for round two of the name-change filibuster.
In a 6-3 party-line vote, the state Senate Education Committee approved the Southwest Missouri State University name change and sent it to the full Senate. The bill would change the name of the school to Missouri State University.
After the vote, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, implied he was willing to use the same filibuster tactics Columbia’s former senator, Ken Jacob, had used to block Senate action.
“I plan on convincing my colleagues that this is a bad idea, for as long as it takes,” Graham said.
Graham was among the three Democrats on the committee to vote against the bill.
If Graham does filibuster the bill, the name-change supporters will try to come to some kind of compromise, said Neal English, chief of staff to President Pro-Tem Michael Gibbons.
If no compromise is reached, supporters can force a Senate vote with written demands from five senators. The Senate majority must then sustain the motion.
“Our intent is to avoid the previous question at all cost and explore all other options,” English said. “The previous question is always a possibility in the Senate.”
The main criticism of the bill is that it could increase competition for resources and reduce funding for all higher-education institutions.
Supporters said the change would be good for Missouri and help to better reflect the mission of the school.
Paul Kincaid, SMSU director of university relations, said the possible filibuster and ultimate decision on the bill are in the hands of the legislature. “This is a good step, but it is very much a first step,” Kincaid said.
This could be the second time a Columbia senator has filibustered against the proposed name change for the Springfield university. Graham’s predecessor, Jacob, conducted a five-day filibuster in opposition to the name change last year. Jacob’s filibuster ended with a compromise that would grant the University of Missouri System $190.4 million, but the bill was defeated in the House.
The new bill also includes three other name changes for Missouri schools and several alterations to the state’s higher-education policy.
The proposed changes include changing the word “college” in Missouri Western State College and Harris-Stow State College to the word “university.” Missouri Southern State University-Joplin would be renamed Missouri Southern State University.
The bill will go next to the Senate floor for a vote.