Feb. 20, 2009

A publication of the University of Missouri Office of Government Relations

Legislative Update

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President signs stimulus bill

President Obama signed into law on Tuesday the federal economic stimulus bill, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The package includes a number of provisions that will be a benefit to higher education such as funding for scientific research and state stabilization funds that may provide help in protecting higher education from cuts in the coming fiscal year. State lawmakers and the governor are now reviewing the plan to assess how the dollars may flow to the state and what impact they may have on budget plans for the coming year.

For a basic summary of the stimulus conference committee report, click here.

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Lawmakers introduce proposals to balance Access Missouri scholarships

Eligible students attending Missouri public or private four-year institutions would receive up to a maximum $2,850 in Access Missouri scholarships under legislation introduced this week in both the House and the Senate. Currently, private students receive up to $4,600 while public students are limited to $2,150.

SB390 was introduced by Sens. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), and HB792 was introduced by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) and several cosponsors. Leaders with the University of Missouri and other public institutions across the state have supported the change, which also was incorporated in Gov. Jay Nixon's higher education budget recommendations for FY10. Private institutions are opposing the measure.

During a meeting on the topic convened last week in St. Louis by the Department of Higher Education, the public presidents noted that Missouri ranks 47th in per-capita support for public higher education, while the state ranks fourth in the percentage of state need-based aid that goes to students attending private institutions.

Senate Education Committee adopts at-large curator legislation

A bill to create an at-large member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators should the state lose a congressional district after the 2010 census has cleared the Senate Education Committee and is on the Senate calendar for floor consideration. SB255, introduced by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) was heard before the panel on Feb. 11 and adopted by an 8-0 vote by the committee on Feb. 18.

The board of curators has sought the change in response to the challenge of what to do if Missouri drops to eight congressional districts after the next census. The constitution requires a nine-member board, yet statutes indicate that no more than one member can come from each congressional district. The legislation would require that "at least one but no more than two" members be designated from each congressional district. Similar legislation has also been filed in the House and is expected to be heard soon.

House Appropriations Committee begins deliberations

The House Appropriations - Education Committee began deliberations on the higher education portion of House Bill 3 this week. Department of Higher Education officials presented the department's budget recommendations and the governor's suggestions early in the week. On Wednesday, the public four-year institutions began providing information and answering quesitons regarding their budget requests. UM System President Gary Forsee will testify before the committee at a hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 in House Hearing Room 1 in the State Capitol. He will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee at 8 a.m. that same day for the same purpose.

The various House Appropriations Committees will conclude their work within the next two weeks. Consideration of the entire state budget will then begin before the House Budget Committee. The House hopes to complete its version of the budget by March 12, 2009.

Congressman Luetkemeyer visits university hospital

Blaine Luetkemeyer, congressman for Missouri's 9th congressional district, visited University Hospital and Clinics George David Peak Memorial Burn Care Center on Feb. 18. The congressman visited with CEO of UM Health Care Jim Ross and Dr. Nicholas Meyer while touring mid-Missouri's only burn intensive care unit. The center provides immediate help to severely burned patients and aids those patients with minor burns in healing their wounds at home.

Legislator Profile: Rita Days

Education has been a high priority for Sen. Rita Days (D-St. Louis) throughout her legislative career that spans 15 years. Today, her Senate district includes the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus.

"Our institutions share responsibilities for preparing citizens for the economic opportunities for the future," Days said. "The level of education really impacts our standard of living."

As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Days has an opportunity to hear many proposals related to education. She sees funding as a major challenge facing all the institutions.

"The lack of a substantial commitment to higher education is a major challenge in elevating our colleges and universities to a higher level," she said. "That includes financial support and recognizing the importance of post-secondary opportunities."

Days graduated from Webster High School and received a music degree from Lincoln University. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1993 and went on to leadership positions including majority whip. While in the House she sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that addressed osteoporosis, elections, early childhood education, bonds for sewer improvement, education reform, Neighborhood Preservation Pilot Program and the Missouri Universal Health Assurance Program.

Days was elected to the Senate in 2002 where education and children's issues have been a high priority. And she has stayed close to UMSL and the people the institution serves.

"Most of our students are non-traditional, which means they return to school to get better jobs, or enhance their skills while continuing to work in our community," she said. "St. Louis County is the economic engine of the state, and an educated work force augments the entire state. UMSL is a major employer, has stabilized the neighboring municipalities and is an excellent partner with K-12 school districts."

This year, as legislators consider proposals that could include a reduction in University Extension funding, Days has also encouraged support for those programs. "Extension programs assist businesses through the Bridge Program and provide math and science enrichment for junior and senior high school students," she said. "Extension engages the community in many development activities."

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