Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

February 16, 2007

Senate poised to continue floor debate on omnibus higher education bill next week

Higher education capital improvements, financial aid, tuition restraint and governance will take up considerable time on the Senate floor next week as the upper chamber continues debate on SB389, the omnibus higher education bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin). A floor substitute of the bill was brought before the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and a second substitute bill has now been introduced to be taken up as early as Monday of next week.

The latest version of the bill restores the six University of Missouri projects that were taken out in committee action last week over concerns regarding stem cell research. The new version contains all of the original projects listed in the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative.

The substitute also includes a non-severability clause for the section providing funding for the capital construction projects, which states that if any part of that section of the bill is deemed unconstitutional by the courts, then the entire section is no longer valid.

The substitute adds some flexibility in the tuition restraint language, but it is expected that significant additional changes on tuition will be introduced next week. Lawmakers want to provide some restraint on tuition increases by limiting the amount of the increase to inflation, unless institutions receive a waiver from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. Only in cases where the CBHE issues a waiver could institutions increase tuition beyond the limit without subjecting themselves to a 1 to 5 percent fine.

University of Missouri President Elson S. Floyd was in the Capitol meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, Feb. 15. During his visits, he emphasized that the medical education facility at the University of Missouri-Columbia would not house stem cell research and that the focus of the facility would be increased cancer patient care, to replace what currently takes place in Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, and increased teaching and classroom space for the School of Medicine.

The higher education bill is expected to take center stage in the Senate next week.  Supporters are hopeful the bill can pass both chambers before legislative spring break in March.

In other MOHELA-related news, Liscarnan Solutions, LLC, the independent financial advisor that earlier performed an analysis validating the financial viability of the Lewis and Clark initiative, issued an e-mail cautioning that their analysis may no longer be valid due to proposed changes to federal student loan policies. In response to Liscarnan Solutions’ statement, MOHELA’s chief financial officer, Scott Giles, said in a statement, "At this point these are just proposals." In reporting the development to the MOHELA board, Giles stated, "The legislative process in Congress has numerous steps remaining with a diverse range of outcomes. MOHELA staff and our industry partners are already monitoring and evaluating each of these proposals."

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