Columbia | Kansas City | Rolla | St. Louis | Outreach and Extension

Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

March 19, 2004

Welcome to UM Legislative Update

Legislative Update is published by UM System Government Relations and University Relations to inform our stakeholders of important government activities affecting the University of Missouri. This issue focuses on a recap of the legislative session to date.

Senate Committee hears Northwest Missouri State merger bill

The Senate Pensions and General Laws Committee held a hearing last week on SB1295 that would merge Northwest Missouri State University with the University of Missouri System. President Elson S. Floyd testified on behalf of the UM System, and several representatives from Northwest Missouri State testified on behalf of the Maryville institution. No action was taken on the bill.

University land lease provision approved by Senate Committee

SCR38, which would permit the University of Missouri-Columbia to enter a long-term land lease for a hotel and conference center, was approved by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday. Should the hotel proposal be approved eventually, the University plans to issue a request for proposals and encourage private operators to bid on the project. Proceeds from the lease would be used toward a nearby performing arts center. Several hotel operators have expressed an interest in bidding on the plan, although a local hotel operator is leading the opposition to the measure. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the plan this past week. The resolution will next be moved to the Senate floor for debate where it will be handled by its sponsor, Sen. Carl Vogel (R-Jefferson City).

Several name change bills still under consideration in House and Senate

Although the proposal to change the name of Southwest Missouri State University to "Missouri State University" was defeated on the House floor last month, supporters of the concept continue to look for opportunities to work the idea into other legislation through the rest of the session. Meanwhile, two other name change plans are being considered. SB755 includes a name change for Missouri Western State College to Missouri Western State University and is awaiting consideration on the Senate perfection calendar. Two other House bills that would also change the name of the St. Joseph institution have had hearings in the House Education Committee. Another bill, HB1658, would change the name of Harris Stowe State College to Harris Stowe State University. It has been referred to the House Education Committee.

Tuition freeze concept introduced in the House

Early in the session, Sen. Harold Caskey (D-Butler) introduced SB780, which would freeze undergraduate tuition levels for four years for entering freshmen. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee but has not been reported to the floor leader. This week, Rep. Joe Smith (R-St. Charles) introduced a similar measure in the House. HB1674 will probably make its way to the House Education Committee after spring break. The University of Missouri has not taken any official position on the measures but has expressed concern that the plan could result in major differences in costs for students taking the same classes, adding that uncertainty in state appropriations make it very difficult to plan four years ahead.

House Budget Committee restores $2.8 million to UM budget

On March 16, the House Budget Committee voted to restore $2.8 million to the University of Missouri System budget. A HCS amendment was offered for HB1003 by Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson (D-25). Earlier this month, Rep. Mark Wright (R-Springfield) had sponsored a successful amendment to reduce the UM System budget for all four campuses by $2.8 million, the same amount owed by the state for its first bond payment this year for the new UM-Columbia basketball arena. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee will convene after spring break on March 29. The University of Missouri’s life sciences bond bill will be reconsidered at that time.

Life Sciences bond proposal

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on March 10 to discuss the University’s life sciences bond proposal. Instead of voting, as originally expected, the committee discussed a substitute bill that would include the original six projects for the University of Missouri as well as an additional eight projects for other higher education institutions. Discussion also was held on how to pay for the bonds, with some senators suggesting using tobacco money earmarked for the life sciences. Committee Chairman Sen. Russell (R-Lebanon) asked the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) staff to review the new list of projects. Following criteria outlined by the committee, the CBHE staff will complete their review prior to the next hearing, which is expected soon after spring break. Chairman Russell also asked the Department of Economic Development to provide an economic impact analysis on all the proposed projects before the next hearing. For details on the six UM projects, click here. For information on life sciences endowed chairs and research districts, please click here.

Tort reform bill moves to Senate

HB1304, sponsored by Rep. Richard Byrd (R-Kirkwood), passed the House the week of March 8 and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The bill contains a number of modifications to the law regulating civil tort action, including torts for improper health care, claims for damages and the payment thereof. To read the major provisions of the bill, please click here. For updates on other health care legislation, please click here.