April 10, 2009

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Legislative Update

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Senate appropriations continues budget work

This week the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee moved one step closer to moving the Fiscal Year 2010 operating budget to the Senate floor for debate. The committee approved a recommendation for the University of Missouri and other higher education institutions that equals allocations for the current year. In the case of UM, this includes utilizing $49 million in federal stabilization funds to bring FY10 funding to FY09 levels.

The Appropriations Committee also approved an amendment by Committee Chair Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) to add $60 million in one-time federal new funds for maintenance and repair. UM's proposed allocation is $33.3 million.

House budget committee considers stimulus legislation and capital improvements

The House Budget committee passed HB15 this week, which allocates specific amounts of federal stimulus money for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009. Included in the recommendation is $6 million to the Department of Social Services for distribution in Medicaid funds to Tier 1 safety net hospitals. University Hospitals and Clinics is one of two hospitals that should qualify for these funds. The House Budget Committee also considered legislation to re-appropriate monies that were allocated in the past two years for capital projects that have not been completed.

Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), who is the House Budget Committee chair, is expected to announce recommendations for other capital items soon.

Senators defeat Access Missouri amendment as education panels continue testimony

A Senate amendment to equalize Access Missouri scholarship awards for students at both public and private four-year institutions failed by a 14-16 vote April 6 during debate on an underlying scholarship bill related to an expansion of the A+ program. The Access legislation is a high priority for the University of Missouri and other public institutions in the state.

Currently, private school students receive up to $4,600 in needs-based Access awards while students at the University of Missouri and other public four-year institutions are limited to $2,150. Legislation has been introduced in both chambers that would set the award at $2,850 for both public and private students. SB390, introduced by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and HB792, introduced by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) were considered separately before House and Senate education panels this week.

During the Senate floor debate on SB558 Monday, Sen. Schaefer introduced an amendment to equalize the awards beginning in 2013, which effectively grandfathered in current private school students so that their awards are not reduced. After lengthy debate, a roll call vote was conducted and the amendment was defeated 14-16. Click here to see how senators voted on the Access award amendment.

Education panels wrap up hearings on Access legislation

Legislators on education panels in both the House and Senate concluded hearings this week to gather testimony on Access Missouri award legislation. Last week, representatives from the public sector, including the University of Missouri's four chancellors and student and alumni groups testified in support of equalizing Access awards before the Senate Education Committee and the House Higher Education Committee. This week, opponents provided input.

The committee heard from representatives from Washington University, St. Louis University, Central Methodist University, Avilla University and Maryville University. In each case the witnesses were asked to give information about tuition increases this year and average student debt load. Generally, tuition levels were much higher than those of public institutions and average student debt loads were lower than those at public institutions.

Students and representatives from these and several other private institutions also testified April 8 before the Senate Education Committee with similar information.

Neither education panel has taken any action on the legislation.

A+ program could get a boost from Missouri Promise legislation

The Senate on Monday gave first-round approval to a proposal to expand the state's A+ scholarship program to include four years of tuition at a public institution of higher education. SB558, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) needs one more Senate vote before it goes to the House for consideration.

In the current A+ program, high school students who graduate from an A+ certified school and meet other requirements are eligible to receive full tuition at a public community college for two years. SB558 would expand that program to all students who meet minimum requirements regardless of whether their high school is certified as an A+ school. It also provides an eventual third and fourth year of support for those students who graduate from a community college and transfer to a public four-year institution to pursue a bachelor's degree. Known as the Missouri Promise scholarship program and supported by the governor, it would be funded subject to appropriation once the first two years of the A+ program are fully funded.

An amendment to SB558, offered by Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), was adopted and would provide clarification for the Bright Flight scholarship program. Under the new language, students in the top 3 percent of standardized test takers can receive up to $4,000 per year in Bright Flight awards beginning in fall 2010, while those in the fourth and fifth percentile would be eligible for a $1,000 Bright Flight award.

House adopts legislation to allow concealed weapons on campus

Students age 21 and older at public colleges and universities in Missouri would be permitted to carry concealed weapons on campus if they complete and pass a training course under legislation adopted by the Missouri House of Representatives this week. Rep. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) offered the amendment, adopted by a 106-41 vote. Click here to see how representatives voted on the amendment.

The campus conceal and carry language was amended to HB668, a bill that includes reducing the minimum age for conceal and carry from 23 to 21 and expanding the use of firearms in self defense. The underlying bill is sponsored by Rep. Kenny Jones (R-Clarksburg).

University of Missouri leaders have expressed opposition to the campus conceal and carry legislation. A statement by UM President Gary Forsee can be seen here.

MU Police Chief Jack Watring said more guns on campus would put his officers in a difficult situation if they had to determine who was the criminal and who was carrying a conceal and carry permit.

The bill has been third read by the House and now heads to the Senate, where the campus carry portion is expected to face considerable opposition.

House committee advances at-large curator legislation

A Senate bill to create an at-large member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators should the state lose a congressional district in the future passed out of the House Higher Education Committee April 9 by a 9-1 vote. SB255, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) is identical to HB515 sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff). It is awaiting consideration in the House Rules Committee.

An amendment to SB255 offered by Rep. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) would have included language allowing one of the board members to be a student. That amendment was defeated by a 7-3 vote.

The legislation is prompted by statutory language which provides that no more than one member of the board of curators can be from the same congressional district. Since the state Constitution requires nine board members, a seat is in question if the state drops to eight districts. The board of curators endorsed a plan to seek a statutory change to allow "at least one but no more than two" members from each congressional district, in effect creating an at-large seat should the state lose the ninth district.


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