Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

April 20, 2007

Senate passes omnibus higher education bill with MOHELA projects

On Thursday, April 19, the Senate gave initial approval to SB389, the omnibus higher education bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), by a vote of 21-12. The bill includes the mechanism for MOHELA to provide funds for higher education capital projects across the state. During debate, lawmakers approved an amendment that expands and increases the Bright Flight scholarship program and requires institutions that receive MOHELA funds to ensure they are not employing any instructors or faculty who are required to register as sex offenders. After hours of debate and discussion of many amendments, Republicans forced a vote on the bill by using a maneuver known as moving the previous question to end debate.

The legislation also incorporates a simplified need-based financial aid program, Access Missouri, that will be coupled with increased state funding for financial aid. “The Missouri Senate’s first-round approval of Senate Bill 389 is a notable step toward strengthening financial aid for students in public higher education,” said Dr. Gordon Lamb, interim UM president. “This will help the University of Missouri keep its enduring commitments to access, affordability and accountability.”

In addition to MOHELA, the legislation includes other provisions related to higher education, including increased powers for the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and a new loan forgiveness program for teachers who go on to work in failing schools. The bill also allows the Commissioner of Higher Education to levy a fine should institutions raise tuition above inflation, although a waiver could be granted. Efforts during debate to remove the tuition restraint portion of the bill failed.

The bill must be Third Read in the Senate early next week before moving on to the House for consideration.

After the vote on SB389, senators passed a new version of HB16, which outlines the capital projects that would be funded through MOHELA assets. The latest version, however, did not include two University of Missouri capital projects – $31 million for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU and $15 million for a nursing and pharmacy building at UMKC. Senate leaders earlier had indicated that projects in the districts of senators who were obstructing the legislation would be removed. Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) and Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) were among those lawmakers offering the most amendments.

“The University is disappointed that the Senate removed funding for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia and for the pharmacy and nursing education building in Kansas City,” said Lamb. “These projects offer tremendous promise for serving the health care needs of Missourians. Cancer is Missouri’s second-leading cause of death, and Missouri’s demand for nurses and pharmacists is well-documented. The needs these projects would address are no less critical because of the Senate’s vote, and they remain vital priorities for the University of Missouri.”

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