University supporters gather at Capitol for Legislative Day, Alumni Alliance awards

Greg Steinhoff, Sen. Gary Nodler and Rep. Gayle Kingery at a press conference to discuss the new capital projects list as part of the Lewis & Clark Discovery Initiative.

More than 500 University of Missouri alumni and supporters came to the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, for the 33rd annual Legislative Day. Gov. Matt Blunt was among the speakers at a morning rally, where he presented a resolution to University of Missouri President Elson S. Floyd. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), Senate Minority Leader Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), and House Minority Leader Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) also attended the rally to present Senate and House resolutions to Floyd. University supporters visited legislators throughout the day and viewed displays in the Rotunda featuring each UM campus and Extension.

The evening before, the University of Missouri Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension presented six honorees with the 2007 Outstanding Alumni Service Awards at a reception and dinner in Jefferson City. This year’s awardees included Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Outstanding Alumni Service to the University of Missouri; Rep. Jeff Harris (D-Columbia), Outstanding Alumni Service to MU; Curator Emeritus Angela Bennett, Outstanding Alumni Service to UMKC; Larry Hendren, Outstanding Alumni Service to UMR; Rep. Clint Zweifel (D-Florissant), Outstanding Alumni Service to UMSL; and Dr. Jo Turner, Outstanding Alumni Service to Extension.

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Legislative spring break

UM Legislative Update will not publish an e-newsletter next week due to legislative spring break, which began upon adjournment on Thursday, March 15. The General Assembly will reconvene on Monday, March 26, and April 1 is the last day for introduction of bills. This issue contains an overview of the major issues impacting higher education and the University of Missouri up until this point in the session.

Omnibus higher education bill stalled in the Senate after filibuster

An omnibus higher education bill to combine plans for tuition restraint, scholarships, performance measures and accountability, powers of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, and capital improvements has been the central focus for lawmakers and higher education leaders so far this session. SB389, introduced by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), chair of the Senate Education Committee, has stalled in negotiations after Democrats staged a filibuster on the Senate Floor this week. The bill may be reconsidered when lawmakers return after spring break. [Read a summary of its various provisions…]

UM operating budget on track for highest increase in six years

Gov. Matt Blunt recommended an operating budget increase of 4.2 percent for the University of Missouri in his State of the State address in January, reflecting an increase of $17.4 million over FY2007 funding levels. This would be the first operating budget increase above inflation for the University since FY2001. Although the University and other higher education leaders had joined with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education last fall in requesting a 12.6 percent increase, the fiscal realities of the budget and pressures from health care, social services, elementary and secondary education and other areas resulted in a three-year plan to get higher education back to its 2001 funding level.

The House Budget Committee has completed mark-up on the bills and the full House is expected to take up the budget bills after spring break. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has also begun initial consideration of the spending plans. All work on the operating budget must be completed by May 11.

House Budget Committee approves health care funding

The House Budget Committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia) to add $1.25 million to the Missouri Rehabilitation Center’s budget. Both University Hospital and the MRC are contained in separate University-related line items within HB3.

Two telehealth-related amendments also were adopted by the committee. Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico) was successful in adding funding for rural health clinic pilot projects that would focus on the use of telehealth. Baker added a language amendment that would permit Medicaid to pay for telehealth-related services. Currently only Medicare pays for telehealth. 

Scholarship and financial aid proposals

Legislation this session includes several scholarship and financial aid proposals to provide additional financial aid assistance to students. Among the proposals is legislation to provide loan forgiveness for veterinary medicine graduates who stay in Missouri and practice large animal veterinary medicine. Additional bills that would provide scholarships to students who complete an associate’s degree at a two-year institution and transfer to a public four-year institution have been considered in both chambers. Legislation also has been proposed to double the amount of the Bright Flight scholarship. [Read more on these and other scholarship and financial aid proposals…]

Betty L. Thompson scholarship program update

The Betty L. Thompson scholarship program legislation was passed out of the Pensions, Veterans’ Affairs and General Laws Committee in the Senate on Wednesday, March 14, advancing a new version of a bill that is similar to one defeated on the House floor last week. Senate Committee Substitute for SB698, sponsored by Sen. Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville), would establish a scholarship authorizing a tax credit beginning with the 2007 tax year for taxpayers who donate to an educational assistance organization. The credit would be for 65 percent of the amount of the contribution and would target students with a grade point average of 2.5 or less in the Kansas City or St. Louis school districts. Eligible students must have a family income no more than 35 percent above the qualifying amount for the reduced lunch program and have attended a public school for the semester before a scholarship is granted or starting school in state for the first time. The scholarship would enable students to attend qualifying schools outside their respective school district.

Intellectual diversity bill awaits consideration by full House

A bill to require public institutions to annually report on activities and policies that ensure intellectual diversity has been approved after a lengthy hearing before the House Higher Education Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full House. HB213, introduced by Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), known as the Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act, is named after a student at Missouri State University who faced difficult situations with faculty after questioning an assignment to write lawmakers in support of gay adoption.  Brooker sued the institution, and the case was settled out of court. Cunningham’s bill encourages institutions to post policies on websites so students know how to report if they feel they are being reprimanded due to personal, political or religious beliefs. It also lists a number of issues that institutions may include in their annual report. The University of Missouri Board of Curators has already been planning to address current policies related to intellectual pluralism in an upcoming meeting.

Legislation considered to replace curator with full-time student

Legislation to change the makeup of the governing boards of the University of Missouri and several other institutions by incorporating a voting student member has been considered by committees in both chambers. S6B10, introduced by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), would replace one of the nine UM curators with a full-time student for a two-year term and give the student a vote. The student would be nominated by the governor and selected through a process similar to the non-voting student representative to the board that currently exists. The student would be exempted from voting on personnel matters, due to an amendment from the Senate Education Committee before the bill was approved unanimously by the panel on Wednesday, March 7. A similar bill in the House, HB613, was introduced by Rep. Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) and has been heard before the House Higher Education Committee, although no vote has been taken.

Higher education immigration bills update

Three higher education immigration bills were heard during a Pensions, Veterans’ Affairs and General Laws Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 14, by the Missouri Senate.
SB348, an immigration omnibus bill sponsored by Sen. Chris Koster (R-Harrisonville); SB626, sponsored by Sen. Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville); and HB269, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone), each contain provisions prohibiting illegal aliens from being admitted to public colleges and universities in Missouri. HB269 has already made its way through the House. However, none of the three bills were voted on during Wednesday’s hearing. [Read more…]

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Congressman Kenny Hulshof and Sen. Kit Bond announce federal funding for new operating rooms at the VA Hospital.
Congressman Kenny Hulshof and Sen. Kit Bond announce federal funding for new operating rooms at the VA Hospital.
MU partner VA Hospital to receive $26 million in federal funding

Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital will receive nearly $26 million in federal money to build new operating rooms. The funding was announced by U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Columbia) and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) on Monday, March 12, immediately after they toured the hospital. MU School of Medicine Dean William Crist, M.D., VA hospital leaders and others joined the tour, which included the medical school’s imaging center in Truman Hospital. Bond and Hulshof praised the partnership between MU’s medical school and Truman Hospital and said VA health care facilities in Missouri are among the best in the country. “These funds will create a much-needed state-of-the-art operating room at Truman VA and ensure that the care our veterans receive is on the cutting edge,” Bond said in a statement.

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Rep. Tom Shively
Rep. Tom Shively (D-Shelbyville)

Rep. Tom Shively (D-Shelbyville) was first elected in 2006 to represent District 8, part of Linn, Macon, Shelby and Sullivan counties, in the Missouri House of Representatives. Shively received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1968. The University of Missouri is a “place of new ideas” and a “place that creates new methods of doing things,” Shively said. “You can ‘show us’ here in the ‘Show Me’ state,” he said. [Read more…]

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