Reps kill name change bill

Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs

Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House of Representatives voted early Feb. 10 to not approve House Bill 777 which would change the name of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University. The bill would have also changed the name of Central Missouri State University to The University of Central Missouri. The bill was defeated 80-71.

Proponents of the bill cited the fact SMSU currently has enrolled students from all 114 counties of Missouri, from 48 states and 80 countries through out the world. In the past 10 years, the university has doubled the graduate programs offered.

Opponents of the bill believe changing the name of any university would only be appropriate if the university’s current title did not represent it correctly. In this case, it was not believed SMSU qualified to be called Missouri State University. It was also said this would create a new tier of higher education that had not existed before in Missouri, and future funding of higher education could be affected.

Other opponents of the bill believed it showed favoritism to SMSU.

“I really hate to see Central Missouri State University left behind,” said Rep. Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs).

Pratt was one of the main individuals who believed the SMSU name change would single out Springfield as the premier regional university.

The Senate last week voted for the name change after a filibuster that lasted 24 hours.

Sen. Ken Jacob(D -Columbia) was one of the main opponents of the name change. He said “he was the filibuster.”

Jacobs said the name change would be detrimental to the creation of quality higher education in the state. The University of Missouri is ranked as a Carnegie level 1-extensive university. This is the highest level a university can achieve. However MU is currently at the bottom of the list of this level. If funds continue to be given to smaller universities not on this level, MU will not be able to move up the ranks, and Missouri will be without this kind of higher education.

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) supported the Senate bill to change the name of SMSU, noting when Southern received a name change last year, all of the Assembly from Southwest Missouri supported the name change. The filibuster that occurred Feb. 3 aggravated several individuals.

Nodler, said one of the freedoms of this country is the freedom of speech.

“The filibuster is an option that exists that should continue to exist,” Nodler said. “The late Sen. Richard Webster was a minority when he served in the Senate, and he was able to play a dominant role in politics for many years because of the power of the filibuster.”

While the Missouri House does not have the power of the filibuster, representatives are allowed to speak on issues. House Speaker Catherine Hanaway (R-Warson Woods) allowed each individual a half hour to deliver their arguments on the issues of the name change.

Pratt, who was one of the main speakers on the bill, took time during one of his speeches to ask the rest of the House to give a round of applause to the clerks who would have to wait until the House came to a decision to complete it’s work.

“These poor clerks will probably be here two hours after we have gone back to our homes, back to our hotels,” Pratt said. “I think there are more important issues we could be discussing, and I don’t want to spend 11 hours on a name change. There are more important bills at hand.”

Rep. Brian Yates (R-Lee’s Summit) also opposed to the bill.

“The debate was rushed and we were kept here to late hours,” Yates said. “I’m surprised this was such an important issue to Missouri.”

Yates said people had been cheated, and Missouri had been cheated.

“You are setting yourself up for a bonding issue,” Yates said. “You are lying to yourself if you think it doesn’t.”

The representative was referring to the decision made in the Senate that would keep the SMSU name change from happening until the $180 million life science bond for MU had been passed.

Rep. Jim Viebrock (R-Republic) defended the bill.

“It’s not about MU, the threat, the bonding, it is about giving credit where credit is due, and Springfield has earned this credit,” Viebrock said. “Ken Jacob is not in control of this chamber.”

Local representatives gave their word of support for the bill that would change the name of SMSU. They did not, however, believe it was necessary to change the name of CMSU.

“I believe that was just tacked on in the end, ” said Rep. Marilyn Ruestman (R-Joplin).

“I promised when SMSU supported us that I would support their name change,” said Rep. Ron Richard (R- Joplin). “My word is my bond and around here that is important.”

Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Joplin) co-sponsored the bill to change the name of SMSU.

“I strongly support SMSU’s name change,” Stevenson said.