Feb. 6, 2009

A publication of the University of Missouri Office of Government Relations

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Education panels hear annual report from Midwestern Higher Education Compact

Representatives of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact appeared before a joint meeting of the Senate and House education committees Feb. 4 to provide an update on how Missouri is benefiting from its membership in the consortium of states. MHEC President Dr. Larry Isaak provided the report to lawmakers.

The report showed that Missouri saved more than $5.1 million last year through MHEC programs that include computing hardware and software purchasing and a master property insurance program. Missouri also is a high user of the Midwest Student Exchange Program that provides reduced tuition for students in member states with more than 1,400 Missouri students participating last year, as well as benefits from policy research, including annual policy summits organized by the policy research advisory committee chaired by UMSL Chancellor Tom George. A number of indicators about education participation and funding in Missouri were presented to the committee.

For more information about MHEC, visit www.mhec.org.

For more photos, click here.

At-large curator legislation introduced in both chambers

Bills in both the House and Senate have been introduced to update statutory language regarding selection of the University of Missouri Board of Curators to provide for an at-large curator should Missouri lose a congressional district after the 2010 census. Missouri is required by its constitution to have a nine member board to govern the university, and state statutes require that no more than one member can be selected from each of the state’s congressional districts. If Missouri drops from nine to eight districts after the next census as most experts predict, the statute must be changed to address the dilemma.

SB255, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) and HB515, sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) who also is chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, were both introduced last week to change the statute so that the board must have “at least one but no more than two” members from each congressional district. If Missouri drops to eight districts, the governor would have the flexibility to select the ninth curator from anywhere in the state.

The bills reflect changes sought by the UM Board of Curators, who researched the issue last fall and looked at how other states have handled similar situations.

SB255 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee, and HB515 is expected to be sent to the House Higher Education Committee. Both bills are expected to have hearings in the next two weeks.

Jobs bill including incentives for research parks clears the House, heads to Senate

An economic development bill to expand the Quality Jobs program and provide incentives for development of research and science parks has cleared the House of Representatives and has been sent to the Senate in one of the first major legislative movements of the session. HB191, sponsored by Rep. Tim Flook (R-Liberty) is a high priority of Gov. Jay Nixon and has received bipartisan support in the lower chamber.

One provision of the bill would provide a tax credit for a company’s qualified research expenses, including agriculture biotechnology, plant genomics products, diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices, and prescription pharmaceuticals consumed by humans or animals. The legislation would also permit tax credits for research related to the development or manufacturing of power system technology for aerospace, space, defense, or implantable or wearable medical devices.

The bill also allows a municipality or local governing body to establish a “business, education, science and technology” district, as well as collect a portion of additional sales tax or income tax revenues resulting from the economic development in the district. One qualification for consideration is the commitment of a physical presence in the district by at least one higher education institution that agrees to offer educational resources such as classrooms, curriculum, dedicated faculty, graduate students and defined partnerships with target industry clusters.

Senate Education Committee hears nursing loan expansion bill

Full- and part-time doctoral students in nursing could participate in a loan program under legislation heard before the Senate Education Committee Feb. 4. SB152, sponsored by Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield) would expand an existing nursing loan program that supports associate, baccalaureate and master’s students by providing access for students pursuing a doctorate.

The Missouri Nurses Association and the University of Missouri were among those testifying in support of the bill. Similar legislation in the House is set to be heard before the House Higher Education Committee next Tuesday.

Senators hold federal stimulus hearings

The Senate Select Committee on Oversight of Federal Stimulus met Feb. 4 to discuss provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is currently being debated in Congress. The committee is charged with studying and analyzing strategies for securing the maximum amount of federal dollars for Missouri that will come from the anticipated 2009 federal economic stimulus plan.

At the meeting, senators gathered information from representatives of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Discussions also were held on education, Medicaid, transportation and other areas expected to be included in the package. The committee must issue recommendations in a report to the Senate by March 12, 2009.

St. Louis area lawmakers visit UMSL

Sens. Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis) and Rita Days (D-St. Louis), and Rep. Maria Chappelle Nadal (D-St. Louis) visited the University of Missouri-Saint Louis campus Feb. 6 to discuss “Did the 2008 election break the glass ceiling?” The event was sponsored by the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life, the provost’s steering committee on civic engagement and the African-American Chapter of UMSL alumni.

U.S. Senate works to pass federal economic stimulus plan

The Senate redoubled its effort Friday to complete passage this weekend of a massive economic recovery bill, which the full House cleared by a vote of 244 to 188 two weeks ago. Senators continue to debate the massive size of the stimulus, as well as which programs receive funding. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) are crafting a plan to reduce the package by $90 to 100 billion, which would cut certain discretionary funding in the Department of Commerce and National Science Foundation, but increase infrastructure funding.

The House version of the stimulus package, H.R. 1, was $825 billion. After mark-up by the Senate Committees on Finance and Appropriations and three days of debate, the stimulus now totals more than $925 billion. Senate leadership hopes to finish consideration Friday night, so the bill could go to conference committee next week. It is unlikely that the stimulus will become law before Presidents Day.

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