Missouri gubernatorial race draws Republican candidates

Gov. Matt Blunt’s announcement that he will not seek a second term, as reported last week in the Legislative Update, has triggered several Republicans to announce their candidacies for the post. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was the first to announce, followed by Treasurer Sarah Steelman. U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who represents the 9th Congressional District, also announced his candidacy this week. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jay Nixon is the only candidate. All of the gubernatorial candidates--on both sides of the aisle--hold degrees from the University of Missouri.

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House Budget Committee approves supplemental budget for MU and UMKC capital projects

The House Budget Committee approved a supplemental appropriations bill, HB2019, that includes funding for the University of Missouri’s two remaining Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative projects on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The bill passed with a vote of 18-0. Included in the legislation is $31 million for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU and $15 million for the Pharmacy and Nursing Building at UMKC. The legislation passed out of the Rules Committee, with no time limit for floor debate, on Thursday, Jan. 31. Floor debate is expected early next week.

The House Budget Committee also approved HB2020, the emergency capital appropriations bill, which should have a floor vote early next week. Funds for the capital costs associated with the Missouri University of Science and Technology/Missouri State University cooperative engineering program had originally been omitted from the bill due to uncertainty over when the program was expected to begin, but those funds are expected to be restored during floor action. Approximately 40 students at MSU plan to begin class work next fall. Budget Chair Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) agreed to include the funds--$500,00O to each school--after the committee’s questions had been answered.

House Education Appropriations Committee holds hearing on higher education

The House Education Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathlyn Fares (R-Webster Groves), met on Tuesday, Jan. 29, to hear an overview of the Department of Higher Education. Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein presented the governor’s recommendations for the higher education budget for Fiscal Year 2009. Stein provided a summary of the role and scope of higher education in Missouri and highlighted the fact that the sector has still not recovered from the budget cuts of the past several years. Committee members discussed the possibility of prioritizing items in the higher education budget if it is determined that the state will not have sufficient resources to meet all the requests. The committee will consider recommendations for each institution during hearings later this month.

Senate committee approves combat veteran tuition plan

The Senate Pensions, Veterans’ Affairs and General Laws Committee approved a modified version of SB830 on Wednesday, Jan. 30, that would waive a portion of tuition for combat veterans serving since Sept. 11, 2001. The University of Missouri provided informational testimony on the original version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), in a hearing last week. In that testimony the University requested that institutions be reimbursed for the tuition waiver by the state, that the waiver be limited to undergraduate courses only, and that other financial aid be applied for before waivers are considered. The Senate Committee Substitute adopted this week does not include the reimbursement language but does limit the waiver to undergraduates and applies other financial aid. A similar bill in the House, HB1307, sponsored by Rep. David Day (R-Dixon), has yet to be heard.

The Special House Committee on Veterans also heard a bill this week that would provide grants to spouses and survivors of those who have been killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. HB1518, sponsored by Rep. Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville), would provide up to 25 such grants, subject to state appropriations. The committee took no action on the bill.