BACKGROUND: I've seen big issues come and go. But I've never seen anything with the staying power of the MOHELA asset sale.
I've always had a bit of trouble describing the MOHELA saga in succinct terms. That's because it is one of the most complicated and twisty political stories in recent memory. The brouhaha stems from Gov. Matt Blunt's desire to utilize assets from a quasi-government agency that provides low-interest student loans to build capital improvement projects at universities. Now just look at that previous sentence. I bet you think that sounds like a mundane legislative exercise.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Since the plan was introduced in 2006, the MOHELA sale caused a revolt within the Missouri Republican caucus, became embroiled in the aforementioned stem cell research controversy, brought about questions of the effectiveness of the University of Missouri's standing in the legislature and became a major point of difference between Jay Nixon and Matt Blunt. But it also was the catalyst behind the most epic filibuster that I ever covered.
I will never forget how I came to the Missouri Capitol Building at the edge of an afternoon and watched floor debate continue into 6:30 a.m. By the time I came back to the offices of the Columbia Daily Tribune at 8 a.m., I had already worked for eight hours. And that was only the first part of the filibuster. The second portion featured a dramatic - and consequential - usage of a parliament move that shut off debate. By the time the smoke cleared, the University of Missouri lost their projects and the Missouri Senate had become a not-so-nice place.
To this day, the University of Missouri is still trying to find funding for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center that was ultimately included in the MOHELA bill. And although it seemed the end of the cash chase was near this year, Nixon decided to withhold the money in the midst of a dismal budget situation.
The drama over the MOHELA sale proved that a seemingly routine political issue can provide some heated emotions and long-term consequences. And a lot of missed sleep.
FUN FACT: Sen. Jason Crowell used part of the MOHELA filibuster to announce that some dude was voted off American Idol.