House bill could restore funds to UM

Robb is unsure if the bill will pass now, but a 2008 agreement might be the answer.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

This story has been corrected since its original posting. Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, did not fail to stall a vote on House Bill 17. He also did not filibuster.

JEFFERSON CITY — A capital improvements appropriations bill that was removed from the MOHELA bill and has seen no action since it left committee two weeks ago could be used to restore funding to two buildings in the University of Missouri System.

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, said Monday that he doubts the bill would make it through the House and Senate with just a little more than two weeks left in the session.

“There’s not enough time and it’s too much money,” Robb said, adding that the bill would appropriate about $110 million in two years.

Robb said he will offer an amendment to the bill, House Bill 19, that will restore $31.2 million to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, but he said he doubts that it will matter because the bill might not pass.

Instead of restoring funding now, an agreement between state legislators and the governor could restore the $31.2 million to MU’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in January 2008, Robb said. Robb, however, mentioned nothing of a pharmacy building at University of Missouri-Kansas City that was also removed from the project list.

The Senate removed funding from this project when it passed an appropriations bill that includes the list of projects funded by the sale of some of MOHELA’s assets. Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, and Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, filibustered the wide-spanning higher education bill that includes the partial sale of MOHELA, which led to $46 million of funding to projects in their districts being cut.

Robb said his deal with the governor would require the funding be added into a supplemental appropriations bill that would be created in January 2008. Justus said she also discussed restoring $15 million to the pharmacy building at UMKC.

While Justus said she would offer an amendment to HB 19 — if it makes it to the Senate floor — Robb said he doesn’t think the bill will get that far.

Others disagree. On Monday, Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he expects the bill to make it to the Senate floor.

Robb, however, cited the high number of projects as his reasoning for why he doubts the bill will pass. Graham said Robb’s power could pass the bill.

“Well, maybe he ought to try hard,” Graham said, adding that Robb is a powerful Republican in the House. “I don’t think people with cancer have a reason to wait another year.”

Robb said the reason he wants to return funding to the cancer center is because his wife had cancer.

“My wife is a cancer survivor, and she has been a cancer patient at Ellis Fischel and many of my friends have been,” he said. “So making sure that that facility gets updated and we are able to provide the high tech and research opportunities for people who are afflicted with cancer is very important.”

On Monday night, Graham also attempted to stall a vote on House Bill 17, a reapproprations bill that includes the MOHELA project list. He reaffirmed his disapproval of the MOHELA sale and read from a 13-page advertisement in Fortune magazine.

HB 17 is needed because of House Bill 16, the appropriations bill that first included the MOHELA project list, which expires in June. When the Senate failed to pass an “emergency clause” attached to the MOHELA bill last week, it delayed funding to the MOHELA projects until September ­­— three months after its appropriations bill expires.

HB 17 extends the appropriations until June 2009. Unfortunately for Justus and Graham, the nature of the bill didn’t allow it to be amended, thus preventing the two senators from restoring funding to the projects in their districts.

Graham, along with a few other Democrats, held the floor for more than three hours. After he gave up the bill passed quickly, ending the Senate’s work on the MOHELA list.

HB 16 and HB 17 must now receive one last check from the House before it can go to the governor and be signed into law.

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