May 19, 2008

A publication of the University of Missouri Office of Government Relations

Legislative Update

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General Assembly passes FY09 budgets

Last Friday, the Missouri General Assembly finished its work on the FY09 operating and capital budgets. For the University of Missouri, the operating budget in HB2003 reflects a 4.2 percent increase in the general operating core used for basic operation of the campuses and University Extension. The bill also includes a special allocation of $2.4 million to UMSL for an equity adjustment. The University´s total appropriation will increase from $430.9 million to $451.4 million for the next fiscal year.

Lawmakers also approved a capital improvements bill. HB2023 contains several University items, including $5 million for the Thompson Center for Autism at MU; $2 million for improvements for statewide agricultural research facilities; $600,000 in planning funds for the new State Historical Society facility in Columbia; and $300,000 each in planning funds for the nursing and optometry facility at UMSL, the nursing and allied health facility at MU, and an expansion of the dental school at UMKC.

The bills are now under consideration by the governor, who will consider and sign them before the end of the fiscal year. The Missouri Constitution gives the governor the power to strike or reduce any budget item. The General Assembly meets again in September to consider overriding any bill vetoed or any appropriation reduced by the governor. The state 2009 fiscal year begins July 1.

Students may get a vote on the board of curators under legislation passed by General Assembly

A bill that would provide for a voting student member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators if Missouri loses a congressional district in the next census was approved by the House of Representatives May 16, sending the measure to the governor for his consideration. SB873, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) had passed the Senate earlier in the session and was debated on the House floor for a brief time on the final day of session. An amendment by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) and chairman of the House Higher Education Committee was offered during House debate that would have placed a six-year sunset on the concept. Kingery´s amendment was defeated 61-74, and the majority floor leader then called for the previous question to cut off additional debate. The bill passed by a 100-47 vote.

The bill´s changes hinge on the loss of one of Missouri´s nine congressional districts after the 2010 census. If that occurs, the ninth member of the board would become a full-time student who could vote, and the student could be from any of the remaining eight congressional districts. The student would not be able to vote on hiring and firing decisions for faculty and staff. The board of curators had taken an official position opposing the measure during a special meeting May 12.

Second military tuition proposal runs out of time as lawmakers adjourn

An omnibus military benefits bill that included a tuition grant program for survivors of those killed in combat did not have time for a final vote in the House as lawmakers adjourned May 16. HB2048, sponsored by Rep. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), would have provided up to 25 tuition grants to family members, including children or spouses of those who had lost their lives in the line of duty. The plan would have been subject to appropriations from the state. It was approved in the Senate with an amendment during the final hours of the session, which left insufficient time for the bill to be reconsidered for a final vote in the House. Earlier in the session, lawmakers did approve the Returning Heroes Education Act, which provides a tuition waiver for all but $50 of undergraduate tuition for combat veterans who return to complete their education.

Immigration reform does not include higher education provisions

Although higher education had been a major component of discussions through the session regarding illegal immigration, legislation passed in the final day of the session did not include any provisions related to the state´s colleges and universities. Language clarifying that illegal immigrants cannot enroll in Missouri public colleges and universities was contained in two different immigration bills as the session came to a close, but the bill that gained traction and moved through both chambers in the final hours was a third bill that contained a number of proposals including a prohibition for businesses knowingly hiring illegal aliens. The final bill that passed was HB1549.

Textbook publishers required to provide price information under Textbook Transparency Act

A bill requiring textbook publishers to include price information in materials they send to faculty members about textbooks available for sale was approved by lawmakers this session. HB2048, sponsored by Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D-Olivette) also requires publishers to provide details about changes in new editions of textbooks and clarifies that students should be able to purchase multiple items bundled for a single class as separate items if they desire. The bill, which was a priority for the students in the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, was initially modeled after legislation considered in other states.

Agriculture bill clarifies language for Large Animal Veterinary Medicine Loan Program

An omnibus agriculture bill passed in the final days of the session clarifies that second-, third- and fourth-year students in MU´s College of Veterinary Medicine may apply for loans under the Large Animal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program adopted by lawmakers last year. SB931 improves language from a bill passed last year that had been interpreted to limit the loan program only to first-year veterinary students. Under the program, students may receive up to $20,000 in loans per year for up to four years, and loans are forgiven over a period of time if the student graduates and goes into large animal practice in the state.

Health care legislation passes

A number of health-related bills were passed by the General Assembly this year, while a few notable bills, such as Insure Missouri, changes to certificate of need, and the anatomic pathology bill did not receive final passage. Below is a brief summary of those bills that were truly agreed to and finally passed. [Read more about the health care legislation…]

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