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Read this before you get all worked up over that bill about revoking Mizzou scholarships


Editorial from KBIA News Director Ryan Famuliner

By now you may have seen the articles with headlines like, “Striking MU athletes could lose scholarships,” and “Legislation targets Mizzou football team strike.” They are referring to a bill pre-filed by state Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), HB 1743, which calls “any college athlete on scholarship who refuses to play for a reason unrelated to health shall have his or her scholarship revoked”

But another accurate headline for this story is: "Guy who can technically make laws but has very little success doing so makes no progress on attention-grabbing bill that would probably affect nothing. Also he does this a lot"

UPDATE: As of 12/16/15, the bill has been withdrawn, according to the status line of the bill on the State House of Representatives' website. But the rest of this article might still shed some light on this situation.

If the name Rick Brattin sounds familiar, it’s likely because he also sponsored a controversial bill (HB 131) last year that would have required women seeking abortions in Missouri to get written consent from the father of the child before going through the procedure. The story was picked up by many national outlets when Brattin pre-filed the bill. When it garnered so much attention, I wrote this editorial last year explaining the bill's chances of actually passing were very low. This section of the editorial last year is still pertinent:

Brattin is the primary sponsor of this bill. Best I can tell using data from Access Missouri and his State House profile, he has been the primary sponsor on 49 bills since 2011, and only two of them that have become law in Missouri. One is Chloe’s Law, a bill that would require every child born in this state to be screened for critical congenital heart disease with pulse oximetry. It is a bill that was actually first introduced before Brattin was even in the legislature. But he did help carry it to the finish line in 2013.
The other bill became law in 2013, again, only after the Republican-led legislature overrode Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto. It is a bill that ensures that “No state or local governmental entity, public building, public park, public school, or public setting or place shall ban or otherwise restrict the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday.” Brattin has said it was meant to protect attempts to wipe out public references to religion for holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. He had 12 cosponsors on that bill...
Brattin does not hold a leadership role in the State House. He actually was appointed House Majority Floor Whip as a freshman legislator in 2010, but has not returned to a leadership role after that first session. He's not even a chairman of a house committee (just two vice-chairmanships on redundant committees).

Brattin’s still the vice-chairman on two committees and has no other leadership role. And he was 0-for-20 in the 2015 session: he sponsored 20 bills, and none of them are now law. The abortion bill never made it out of committee.

CORRECTION: One bill that Brattin sponsored (HB408) didn't pass in 2015, but a similar bill in the Senate (SB93) did pass, and was signed into law by Governor Nixon in July. Interestingly, the bill created the "Campus Free Expression Act," which actually expanded "free speech zones" on campuses to include any outdoor space, rather than designated spaces like MU's Speaker's Circle. So you could say Brattin was 1 for 20, bringing his all-time total up to 3-for-69. And the two bills he was involved in from the beginning sought to protect First Amendment rights.

It’s worth noting that Brattin is a Republican, and Republicans have had veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate for the last three legislative sessions. So he doesn’t even need the support of one Democrat to create a law in Missouri if he can rally Republicans behind his bill. He hasn’t been able to do it since the holiday bill, and right now only one of the 162 other members of the State House has signed on to HB1743 this year as a cosponsor.

The bill has been pre-filed, which is a step that actually means very little. There’s no real progress being made on the bill. Right now, there are 500 bills that have been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session that begins in January. There is actually no procedural advantage to pre-filing a bill before the session starts. The maneuver is sometimes used by legislators to try to mobilize other legislators around a bill before the session starts. But it’s also a way to get media attention for a bill during a time when state news is slow. It seems clear that, as was likely the case last year with the abortion permission bill, Brattin just wants attention here.

Meantime, many have pointed out that this bill could be a violation of the First Amendment rights of student athletes. But beyond that, as the Columbia Tribune reports, it appears this bill would be redundant to a policy that is already in the student handbook at MU:

“The student athlete handbook says the university may revoke the scholarship of any athlete violating NCAA, Southeastern Conference, institutional or departmental regulations or failing to “maintain their academic or social responsibilities.”

So again, this is a guy who can technically make laws but has very little success doing so. He’s made no real progress on this attention-grabbing bill that would probably affect nothing. Also he does this a lot.

So if this is what you want to spend time discussing on Facebook and twitter and with your peers, go ahead. But I would contend there are much more valuable conversations to have about things that might actually happen and affect the real world. Like the precedent these kind of demonstrations set. Or the efforts of MU students to unionize. Or what might come of Kurt Schaefer’s criticism of the teaching load of MU faculty members. Or the scores of those 500 pre-filed bills that might actually come up for debate this year and maybe even become law and affect something. HB 1743 isn’t one of them.

Ryan Famuliner joined KBIA in February 2011. Ryan previously worked as a general assignment reporter and videographer at WNDU-TV in South Bend, Ind. and as a reporter and anchor at the Missourinet radio network in Jefferson City, MO. He’s reported nationally on NPR and WNYC’s The Takeaway.