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Sen. Graham filibusters SMS name change bill into the night.

February 14, 2005
By: Ben Welsh
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - There was no love lost in the Missouri Senate this Valentine's Day.

The long-awaited debate over changing the name of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University stretched late into the night Monday. Columbia Sen. Chuck Graham and other Democrats stalled a vote by holding the floor with an extended filibuster.

Graham, whose district includes the home of the University of Missouri System, argues that Southwest doesn't deserve the new name. He and other critics say it would lead to demands for more funding.

Supporters of the change, a group which includes Gov. Matt Blunt, a Springfield native, say the school is ready for the step up.

"We firmly believe that we are a state university in every sense of the word," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield). She said the new name would help Southwest attract out of state students.

*Graham entered the chamber for the afternoon session with a large stack of books and said he was ready to do whatever he had to do to prevent a vote.

He said he remained open to compromise and complained that none had been offered.

"I have not been contacted by Sen. Champion," Graham said. "She's just trying to ram this down my throat and that's not what we're about in the Senate."

*Graham's fellow Democrats did most of the work early on. St. Louis Senators Tim Green, Maida Coleman -- herself a cosponsor of the name change bill -- Rita Days and Joan Bray held up proceedings by debating a series of amendments. They filled the time by complaining about the cuts to social services, like Medicaid, proposed in Blunt's budget.

*Graham did not take the floor to begin his filibuster until after nine. While the St. Louis Senators froze action on the floor, he spent much of his time behind closed doors in his office.

*Republicans hold 22 of the 32 Senate seats. It only takes 18 votes to override a filibuster and force a vote. By not voting to cut off debate, they allowed floor action to continue on through the night. As of press time no resolution had been reached.

*"It could go until the morning light," said Sen. Dan Clemens, (R-Marshfield).

*The bill, SB 98, would rename a number of state universities and colleges. Besides reforging Southwest as Missouri State, it would grant the title of university to Missouri Western State College and Harris-Stowe State College. Joplin would be dropped from Missouri Southern State-Joplin's name.

This is the second straight year the name change has been filibustered on the Senate floor. Last year, former Columbia Sen. Ken Jacob held up proceedings before the measure ultimately passed. The bill, however, died in the House.

A filibuster is when a legislator delays proceedings by delivering an extended speech. In the past, senators have resorted to reading from the telephone book to pass time.