July 16, 2008

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Legislative Update

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MOBIO benchmarking tour spends a day at Mizzou

Reps. Judy Baker and Ed RobbSeveral members of the 2008 MOBIO legislative benchmarking tour spent Tuesday, July 15 at the University of Missouri-Columbia seeing facilities and meeting several faculty and students involved in life sciences and economic development initiatives in Columbia. The week-long statewide tour, organized by the Missouri Biotechnology Association, includes visits to public and private research and education facilities to inform a small group of legislators and staff about the opportunities in the life sciences. The stop in Columbia included the Bond Life Sciences Center, the School of Medicine, the MU Research Reactor, and a visit to the Discovery Ridge research park and its first tenant, ABC Laboratories. UM President Gary Forsee and MU Provost Brian Foster were among featured speakers.

Legislators participating in the tour included Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City), Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico), Rep. Steve Hodges (D-East Prairie), Rep. Sam Komo (D-House Springs), Rep. Darrell Pollock (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Michael Talboy (D-Kansas City). Local legislators joining the group for the Columbia visit included Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia) and Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia).

To view more photos from the event, please click here.

Groundbreaking for Missouri Orthopedic Institute

Reps. Judy Baker and Ed RobbUniversity officials broke ground for the new Missouri Orthopedic Institute June 5. Area legislators attended the event, including Sen. Carl Vogel (R-Jefferson City), Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia) and Rep. Ed Robb (R-Columbia). The institute will be the largest freestanding orthopedic center in central Missouri and the region's most comprehensive orthopedic surgery center. The 113,512-square-foot building will open in early 2010 at a total cost of $52.5 million. It will include 41 clinic rooms, two procedure rooms, five operating rooms, 16 private inpatient rooms, a pharmacy and rehabilitation services. For more information, visit http://ortho.muhealth.org/newbuilding.htm.

Governor vetoes voting student curator legislation

Gov. Matt Blunt has vetoed SB 873, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), which would allow for a voting student on the University of Missouri Board of Curators if Missouri loses a congressional district after redistricting in 2010. The bill, which passed 100-47 in the House and 31-2 in the Senate, was opposed by the university's board of curators for reasons stated in a May 12 motion.

The board's primary concern was that the bill moved the governing body away from a lay board toward a constituency-based board. Blunt issued a veto letter that agreed with that concern and outlined a number of additional reasons why he did not feel the legislation was a good idea.

Board Chair Cheryl Walker issued a statement in response to the governor's veto, thanking him for his actions. "How redistricting should impact the University of Missouri should not be decided in advance of exploring, developing and studying all options that may be available in the event our state loses a congressional seat in 2010," she said.

Lawmakers will meet in September for the annual veto session to consider possible overrides. Both the Senate and House would have to approve such a motion by a two-thirds majority.

Governor releases lottery funds for higher education initiatives

Strong revenue projections as the fiscal year came to a close led Gov. Matt Blunt to order the release of $2.3 million in reserve funds out of lottery proceeds to public higher education institutions for economic development initiatives. The release of funds was announced June 19, and the University of Missouri System expects to receive $1.1 million.

"We appreciate Gov. Blunt's decision to release these funds, which will directly support our research and economic development missions," said UM President Gary D. Forsee. "The University of Missouri System will use the seed money for promising economic development initiatives in cooperation with the state Department of Economic Development. The funding will enable the university to move more research discoveries and new technology to the market place and that means a greater return on investment to the people of Missouri."

UM System Vice President for Research and Economic Development Mike Nichols has said the funding will be used to improve technology transfer efforts. Each campus will submit proposals for how they could use the funds.

Governor signs immigration bill amid questions about impact on higher education

Although several immigration bills under consideration this past session related specifically to higher education, none of them passed. However, the omnibus immigration bill that passed on the final day of the session included some federal language that raises questions about the possible indirect impact on international students at the University of Missouri and other public higher education institutions.

HB 1549, sponsored by Rep. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), included several provisions related to powers of the highway patrol and imposing penalties on those who hire illegal aliens. However, a section of the bill inserted in the final hours of the session that bars illegal immigrants from eligibility for public benefits raises questions about international students who apply for admission prior to receiving documentation to come here to study. The bill states that immigrants must provide proof of citizenship or documentation at the time they apply for such public benefits - but international students do not receive visa clearance to study here until after they have been accepted at the institution.

The law goes into effect in January 2009, and the Department of Higher Education will be working with institutions to modify the language in the bill next session to remove any question that it was not intended to create an impediment to international students coming to study legally.

Bills signed at MU's Thompson Center

MU's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders was the site for bill signings by Gov. Matt Blunt on June 30 and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on June 23. The Thompson Center promotes research, teaching and service innovations designed to improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other neurological conditions.

The governor signed HB 2023, which appropriates money for capital improvements. In addition to the $5 million received by the Thompson Center, the university received $300,000 for the planning and design of a new Nursing and Optometry School on the St. Louis campus; $600,000 for the State Historical Society; $300,000 for the planning and design of a new Nursing/Health Professions School on the Columbia campus; $300,000 for planning money to research expansion options for the existing dental school on the Kansas City campus; and $2 million for Missouri agricultural experiment stations at South Farm.

Lt. Governor Kinder signed SB 768, which creates the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Office of Autism Services.

McCaskill hosts homeowners seminar at UMSL

Sen. Claire McCaskillSen. Claire McCaskill hosted a seminar for homeowners June 28 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. At issue were subprime home loans and foreclosures. According to McCaskill, subprime mortgages have caused, and will continue to cause, record foreclosures in the United States. "Nearly 20,000 Missouri families are expected to lose their homes by the end of 2009," she said. At the seminar, bank representatives, community organization leaders and credit counselors joined McCaskill to give homeowners guidance on how to avoid losing their homes. Panelists also discussed what homeowners should do after foreclosure and how to avoid predatory lenders in the future. The event was free and open to the public.

Alumni Alliance honors retiring house members

Ron Given and Reps. Neal St. Onge and Kathlyn FaresThe Alumni Alliance honored retiring members of the House of Representatives at their meeting in St. Louis June 13-14. Alliance Chair Ron Given (right) presented Rep. Neal St. Onge, (R-Ballwin), Chair of the House Transportation Committee, and Rep. Kathlyn Fares (R-Webster Groves), Chair of the House Education Appropriations Committee, with plaques. Both representatives are term limited. The new chair of the alliance is Ron Ritter.

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