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Following Missouri’s higher education bill

Following Missouri’s higher education bill
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JEFFERSON CITY — The state government beat at the Columbia Missourian is trying something new this legislative session. A team of our reporters and graphic designers will be following one bill as it moves through the House and Senate.

We decided to start this project as we think it’ll be a good learning experience for both us and our readers. Over the next few months, this project will give us the opportunity to take an in-depth look at a bill as it moves through the Missouri General Assembly.

For this project, we’ve chosen House Bill 2003 — the higher education appropriations bill, where all the state funding for higher education is wrapped up. But that’s not all. We’ll also be looking for cool ways to go behind the scenes to really get to the heart of how somebody can see a problem and then propose legislation to try to change it.


How a state budget bill becomes a law

But first, let’s quickly catch up on what’s happened to the bill so far.


The Art of the Bill

The committee phase reversed many of the cuts proposed by Greitens. The House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, put back $68 million in higher education funding (with the caveat that tuition must remain flat) and 60 percent of the funding for cooperative programs.

Now, the bill is awaiting the House floor debate, where it will be finalized before it’s sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The following stories will take a look at the process, and the first hurdle that our bill just cleared: Committee hearings. If somebody wants to change something, how do they go about it? How do they navigate the hearing process? Where do bills even come from? We look at several different bills from earlier this session to explore the process.

In the coming weeks, we’ll post updates on our bill’s movement.

While our bill begins with the executive branch, legislation can come from a combination of several places including lawmakers and so-called “special interest” groups.

Lawmakers frequently sponsor legislation on behalf of a problem within their own district. Outside groups that range from trade organizations to multinational corporations often advise or write bills. 

Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, walked us through the steps of prepping for committee hearings. Kendrick serves on the House Budget Committee, which just moved House Bill 2003 to the House floor.

The first step in passing legislation, the committee hearing, acts as a sort of filter for poorly conceived or bad legislation. A smaller subset of six to a dozen lawmakers hear testimony for or against a piece of legislation and try to decide whether or not it should move on to the House floor. This step is one of the only times that the public can influence a bill.

House and Senate committees serve as the first line of defense in a democracy, often acting as a filter for legislation before it reaches the full legislature.

Supervising editor is Dylan Jackson. Graphics editor is Carlie Procell. Designer is Kathryn Hardison.

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