MU professor receives Outstanding Missourian award

Gov. Matt Blunt speaks to University supporters during the Legislative Day rally.

Mark Prelas, MU professor at the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute, was honored Wednesday with the Missouri Outstanding Missourian award before the Missouri House of Representatives. Prelas was recognized for his accomplishments in nuclear engineering research.

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UMSL Chancellor Tom George, UM President Gary Forsee, UMSL College of Nursing Teaching Professor Judith Maserang and Gov. Matt Blunt at the Teacher of the Year event.
UMSL Chancellor Tom George, UM President Gary Forsee and Gov. Matt Blunthonor UMSL College of Nursing Teaching Professor Judith Maserang.
Governor honors four professors as outstanding teachers

Four University of Missouri professors were recognized by Gov. Matt Blunt Wednesday as outstanding teachers before the Missouri Counsel on Public Higher Education. MU Clinical Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Dr. Richard Meadows, UMKC Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Kathleen Kilway, Missouri S&T Curators Teaching Professor Dr. Yinfa Ma, and UMSL College of Nursing Teaching Professor Dr. Judith Maserang were honored.

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Senate appropriations bills pass out of committee

The higher education appropriation bill, HB2003, has been voted out of committee and will head to the Senate for debate next week.

Committee Chair Sen. Gary Nodler (R, Joplin), who chairs the committee, raised the operating core budget increase to 4.2 percent, which mirrors the governor’s recommendation. The House had recommended a 4 percent increase.

The University of Missouri System is recommended for an increase of $18,099,346. An additional $2.44 million will be added for the identified funding gap at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Other related items receiving an increase include Telehealth for $437,640 and the State Historical Society for $100,000.

The budget bills are expected to be turned in Tuesday in the Senate; the committee is still awaiting capital bills HB2016 and HB2023 from the House. The final deadline for the budget is May 9.

House turns attention to capital budget

Having finished its work on the operating budget, the House turned its attention this week to the capital budget. House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) introduced a new construction capital bill that was heard in the Budget Committee this week.

Most of the discussion involved HB2023. Gov. Matt Blunt had previously recommended funding for several projects that were included in the bill as introduced by Icet, including $5 million for partial funding of the MU Thompson Center for the Study of Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders and $600,000 for a new facility for the State Historical Society in Columbia. Icet’s bill added $300,000 for a nursing and health professions facility at MU and $2 million for needed upgrades and construction to MU’s agricultural experiment stations around the state. Rep. Ed Robb (R-Columbia) gained approval of an amendment adding $500,000 for an economic development business incubator at MU.

The governor originally recommended $750,000 in funding for plant expansion needs for anticipated enrollment growth at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. In the introduced bill, $300,000 in funding was recommended. The budget committee removed this item pending receipt of enrollment data from the school. 

Senate passes bill that could lead to a voting student curator

A bill that would provide for a voting student member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators has passed the Senate and is awaiting consideration in a House committee.  SB873, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) would create a full-time student curator position in place of one of the nine current members and would replace the nonvoting student representative to the board of curators currently in place. 

The state constitution defines the board of curators as consisting of nine members, and state statute spells out that not more than one member can come from the same congressional district.  If the state goes from the current nine congressional districts to eight congressional districts after the 2010 census as many predict, the ninth member would be a student. A change made at the Senate committee level also outlined that the student would not be allowed to vote on the hiring and firing of personnel other than the president. The measure, which passed 30-2, is contingent on the loss of the congressional seat and has not been assigned to a House committee. A similar bill in the House was heard before the House Higher Education Committee but has not been voted on.

Immigration bill provides window for children of undocumented aliens

An omnibus immigration bill approved last week by the Senate would allow children of some undocumented aliens to enroll in Missouri higher education public institutions as part of a compromise reached between two St. Louis area Senators. The bill, SB858, is sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) and would prohibit illegal aliens from enrolling in public institutions except those who attended three or more semesters at a public high school immediately prior to enrolling. Only those potential students who were born on or before Aug. 28, 2008, would be eligible to enroll. The change had been sought by Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) and was one of several changes made in the bill during Senate debate. The bill is expected to be considered by the House Special Committee on Immigration soon.

A House bill banning enrollment of illegal immigrants has already passed the lower chamber and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. That bill, HB1463,
sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone) does not include the language related to students who have attended public high schools.

Combat veterans tuition bill moves out of House committee

Legislation that would waive a portion of tuition for combat veterans has cleared the Senate and been approved by the House Special Committee on Veterans. SB830, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), would limit tuition to $50 per credit hour for undergraduate courses for those who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Institutions must apply all other federal, state and military aid to the student’s account prior to considering the waiver, and no student could receive financial aid and a waiver exceeding the cost of attending. 

In the House Committee Substitute version of the bill adopted April 3, institutions would report the amount of funding waived to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, which could then include that amount in budget requests to the General Assembly. Lawmakers would have the option to reimburse institutions for funding waived as part of the next year’s budget.  The bill reflects several changes that have been requested by the University of Missouri.

Measure to provide information to faculty on textbook costs advances

Student lobbying organizations have raised concern regarding the increasing costs of textbooks and have developed a plan to encourage textbook publishers to provide cost and additional information about textbook offerings to faculty to raise awareness about the financial burdens placed on students. 

A bill patterned after legislation suggested by national organizations has been passed by the Missouri House and is on track for quick consideration before the Senate. HB2048, sponsored by Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D-St. Louis), would require publishers to provide upon request information to faculty regarding the cost of the textbooks, as well as differences in various editions. The Textbook Transparency Act also seeks to allow bundled textbooks that may include several books, workbooks or CDs to be made available as separate items. The bill passed the House April 3 and the Senate Education Committee April 9 as a consent bill, which will receive priority treatment on the calendar.

Health care bills advance

A number of health-related bills have advanced the past week. Most notably, SB1283, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) was passed out of the Senate Health and Mental Health Committee this week and is currently on the Senate calendar for floor debate. The bill creates the Missouri Health Transformation Act, which would include the creation of a health cabinet and policy council, a health workplace recognition program, and a primary care access pilot project. The bill also modifies provisions for adverse health events, Telehealth, MO HealthNet and health insurance.

In the House, two bills related to Insure Missouri were passed out of committee this week: HB2413, and HB2398. They will be debated on the House floor if the bills are reported to the House calendar. 

House Higher Education Committee considers MOHELA bill, other measures

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority would be allowed to originate federally guaranteed student loans under a bill that was heard and approved by the House Higher Education Committee Wednesday. SB967, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) has passed the Senate and limits the authority’s origination of Stafford loans to 10 percent of the previous year’s total for the state, or $200 million. The bill will be considered by the Rules Committee next week before moving on to the House calendar. 
The Committee also heard HB1979, which would establish the Missouri National Guard and Missouri Reservists Family Education Grant, as well as HB2582, which would establish renewable teacher preparation scholarships to the existing one-year nonrenewable award for students who current teach or commit to teach special education students. The committee took no action on the latter two bills.

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Conferees negotiate Farm Bill

Late Wednesday, the House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate a final version of HR2419, the Farm Bill. The House Conference Committee included Rep. Sam Graves (MO-06), who is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and a University of Missouri alum. The House Agriculture Committee has presented a new outline of the plan, which fully pays for the farm programs with offsets already agreed to by the president so that the final bill avoids any veto threat.

Both the House and Senate passed their respective versions of the 2007 Farm Bill by clear margins, but resolving the differences in the two measures has been difficult. Graves and other members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, which is composed of member from both the House and Senate, are charged with creating a long-term reauthorization before the end of next week. The current extension of the Farm Bill expires April 18, 2007.