Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

January 19, 2007

Boone County lawmakers discuss higher education issues at forum

The six state legislators whose districts include Boone County participated in a legislative forum hosted by the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Boone County Chapter Thursday, Jan. 18, in Columbia. The lawmakers each talked about their priorities for the session and answered questions from the crowd that included University employees and administrators, local business leaders and alumni. The annual event was co-sponsored by the MU College of Arts and Science Alumni Association.

Chuck Graham

Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) said there would be many higher education issues debated this year and noted that many of the issues such as stem cell restrictions are controversial in the Capitol. He said he anticipated an omnibus higher education bill to be introduced in the Senate next week that would include several issues such as the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, financial aid, performance measures, tuition restraint and increasing the powers of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. “I am anxious to see the plan,” he said, and added that he hoped to see a unified response from the University of Missouri and the higher education community on the issue. Graham said he supported the projects in the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, either through the MOHELA proposal or some other avenue such as bonding or use of surplus funds. He also noted his support for the curator candidates that are under consideration in the Senate.

Judy Baker

Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia) agreed that the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative was important to all of the local legislators. “We’re with you on that,” she said. “But we also need to look at the funding issue. We need to make sure that our higher education institutions get the funding they need.” Baker also noted her involvement in proposals to increase support for health care education programs, including the $20 million request for health care education put forward by the University of Missouri. She said the state faces shortages in nearly all health care fields in virtually every county. “We have a crisis, and we need to provide help to widen the bottleneck at our public institutions so that they can produce the professionals we are going to need now and in the future,” Baker said.

Jeff Harris

Rep. Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) said his top priority was to pass the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative. “I have been a supporter of the MOHELA plan for a year,” Harris said. “There have been many twists and turns, but I am working hard to make this happen. It is very important both to the MU campus and to the University of Missouri and the state as a whole.” Harris also said he supports increasing appropriations for higher education to the levels seen in Fiscal Year 2002, as recommended by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, and that he has filed legislation providing tax deductions on tuition at public colleges and universities. He also supports increasing need-based financial aid as proposed by the Department of Higher Education.

Steve Hobbs

Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico) said as higher education issues move forward this session, it is important to reach out to other areas of the state to talk about the benefits of education and research and ways in which the University provides value across the state. “If we are going to make a commitment to increase funding and do these other projects, we are going to need your help,” Hobbs told the audience. “You need to contact others around the state, because they need to hear how what we are doing is important.” He also said it was the wrong approach to marginalize the very strong beliefs others around the state may have on some issues. “There are ways we can work together, and if we go to it in the right spirit, and show a willingness to compromise on some of these issues, then we will do very well.”

Paul Quinn

Rep. Paul Quinn (D-Monroe City) said it was his first legislative forum since being elected to the 9th House seat and that he was a big believer in higher education. “We need to fully fund our higher education institutions to the FY2002 level,” Quinn said. “We need to work together to make sure that our higher education institutions are funded well, and I will work to do that.” He also raised some concern about proposed cuts in social security taxes, which he argued would potentially take away funds that could be used for other priorities such as higher education or elementary and secondary education.

Ed Robb

Rep. Ed Robb (R-Columbia) said he was focused on passing the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative and securing an increase in operating funds for the University. He said lawmakers were considering significant increases in funding for scholarships and for direct operating appropriations to the institutions. He said many aspects of the Lewis and Clark Initiative would provide significant benefits to the University of Missouri. “It is essential that we pass this legislation and start doing the life sciences research here and across the state so that we can generate jobs for our children,” Robb said. He also said he had introduced legislation to increase the Bright Flight scholarship again this year.