House rejects bill for Ellis Fischel funding

There is also a bill in the Senate that would utilize bonds as funds.
After a week of back-and-forth votes in Jefferson City, a capital improvement bill containing $31.2 million for the construction of a new Ellis Fischel Cancer Center was defeated Thursday in the Missouri House. Despite getting first-round approval, Democrats and Republicans alike voted against the final bill.

The Missouri House voted Thursday to kill a bill that would provide funding for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.

The bill uses federal money to fund various projects and programs throughout the state. In addition to the cancer center, the bill provides for improvements to the St. Louis MetroLink system and a plant science facility in Mexico, Mo.

At the House Rules Committee meeting Monday five Democrats, including Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, walked out in protest of the bill's committee assignment. Because it is a matter of funding, Webber said, the bill should have been sent to the House Budget Committee, but it was instead assigned to the Rules Committee.

"The whole process was so messed up," Webber said. "The bill didn't go through the right committee."

After the Democrats left the meeting, the remaining Republicans voted to remove funding for the cancer center from the bill. Webber said the move from Republicans was in retaliation to the Democrats' protest.

"It's inconceivable to think a representative can take something out on another representative like this," Webber said. "I think it's incredibly petty."

When the bill moved to the House for floor debate Wednesday, the House voted on an amendment to reinstate funding for the center, and the House gave the bill preliminary approval, with a vote of 97-56. Thursday, though, both Democrats and Republicans voted to kill the bill with 82 opposed and 68 in favor.

"There's a lack of interest in governing from both sides," Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said. "And more of an interest in scoring political points."

Chancellor Brady Deaton said he is confident in the legislators' work.

"In the legislative process there are many forces at work," he said. "Things are often done with very good intentions in mind."

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill by Kelly that would use the sale of more than $700 million in bonds to fund construction projects, including the cancer center. The bill has passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and awaits Senate floor debate, with an increase to more than $800 million in bond sales.

Webber said both bills provide funding for Ellis Fischel, but he would rather use the House bill to fund it.

"I'd like to use stimulus money to pay for Ellis Fischel so we can use the bond for other projects," he said.

Kelly said the House is not finished with this bill, and the House will reconsider the bill Monday.

"The bill got beat, but it's not dead, and we've got to wake it up," he said.

Schaefer said he will work to reinstate funding for Ellis Fischel in the Senate if the House bill ultimately fails to pass with the provision for the center.

"I'm going to do everything I can," Schaefer said. "The state of Missouri made a promise to the University of Missouri and to the citizens that it was going to build that facility and the state needs to deliver on that."

Deaton said he is still expecting funding for the cancer center to go through.

"We're trying to be patient," Deaton said. "I'm hoping its value to the state will be recognized. The inherent value of Ellis Fischel will be valued."

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