Another delay to MOHELA vote a possibility
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Another delay to MOHELA vote a possibility

Date: September 20, 2006
By: Rachel Higginbotham
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt's Chief-of-Staff Ed Martin said Wednesday that the governor was not ruling out the possibility of a delay to vote on the sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

MOHELA board chairperson Karen Luebbert sent a letter to Blunt's office Tuesday offering to push the vote back if more time is needed for appointments.

"That's something that we'd want to consider. We're very respectful of the board," he said. "Chairwoman Luebbert has been someone who has been thoughtful and put together an agenda and been smart about things, so when she sends a letter like that, we have to consider it and think about it. We want to do this in a way that respects all the board members."

The letter from Luebbert came after the announced departure of three MOHELA board members in two days. Marilyn Bush of St. Louis resigned from the board Monday, citing a conflict of interest. Charles McClain, whose office as interim commissioner of the state's Higher Education Commission gives him an automatic place on the board, announced his intent to resign Monday, citing health problems.

James Ricks, a board member from Cape Girardeau, resigned Tuesday, also citing a conflict of interest.

Bush's spot has already been filled by Pulaski Bank President Tom Reeves. McClain's and Ricks's spots have yet to be filled, but Blunt spokesperson Spence Jackson said that he hopes that successors will be appointed by next week. McClain's replacement will be appointed by the Commissioning Board for Higher Education. Ricks's will be appointed by the governor.

The MOHELA board is set to vote on Blunt's plan on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-St. Louis County, called for a delay to the vote Wednesday, as well as an independent review into the plan. Zweifel expressed concern that one week wouldn't be long enough for new board members to get acquainted with the proposal.

"We're going to have folks that are pretty new to this proposal at this point being asked to make a decision on this proposal and vote on it, and I think that's bad public policy," he said. "Current board members, whether they support it or they don't, or they're undecided, they've spent months studying this. I think asking folks to catch up after being appointed to the board for a few days or a week is just unacceptable."

But Jackson said that he wasn't concerned that the new members wouldn't have enough time to become familiar with the issues.

"Given the significant amount of public debate that this issue's received, and the tremendous amount of media coverage that it's received, I think it would be possible for them to get up to speed on this issue and to hear both sides on this issue and to be able to case an informed vote," he said.

Jackson added that Reeves had been given a stack of information from the MOHELA board. "I think that he'll be able to get up to speed on this issue in time for the meeting if it proceeds as scheduled," he said.