May 1, 2009

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Conference Committee concludes work on higher education operating budget

Lawmakers agreed to keep the operating budgets for public higher education institutions level for FY10 this week. This news means the agreement reached between Gov. Nixon and the higher education institutions to not raise tuition if the legislature passed a level budget will become a reality.

The Conference Committee completed its work on House Bill 3 as expected this week. The committee, chaired by Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) and Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) agreed to a core budget recommendation for the University of Missouri totaling $451.6 million—or the same appropriation the university received for FY09. The conference used $49 million in federal stabilization funds to fill the hole left by declining state revenues.

The Conference Committee also agreed to provide one-time funds for FY10 to all public four-year higher education institutions totaling $40 million. The university's share of this total is $24.2 million. The institutions will be allowed to use this money for any purpose they determine appropriate.

Click here to see additional details on the university's FY10 appropriation in HB3. All of the operating budget bills must be approved by May 8. The session ends May 15.

Key capital appropriations bill defeated by the House

The House of Representatives failed to pass appropriations bill HB22 April 30. By a vote of 68 to 82, the motion to move the bill to the Senate was defeated.

House Bill 22 was introduced to fund several construction projects across the state including $31.2 million for Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and $13 million for the University Hospital and Clinics' eventual deal to run Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center. The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee, rather than the House Budget Committee, which caused significant debate in the committee and an eventual walk-out by Democratic committee members. The remaining committee members then adopted an amendment to remove the funding for Ellis Fischel and redistribute the money to the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the community colleges for maintenance and repair.

When the bill reached the floor, Budget Chair Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) introduced an amendment to add Ellis Fischel funding back to the bill, and it passed. The bill was perfected by the House 97 to 56. When the bill was taken up for Third Reading, however, the bill was defeated. Unless the House moves to reconsider the vote, the bill cannot move to the Senate.

House Bill 21, another bill utilizing federal stimulus funds, has moved to the Senate and will be heard next week. As of yesterday's adjournment, HB21 is the only bill that could be a vehicle for capital funding.

Senate Appropriations Committee passes bonding resolution

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed HJR 32, which would authorize a constitutional amendment to fund higher education construction projects. The committee adopted an amendment that added $100 million to the original $700 million plan and outlined that $550 million must be used for higher education projects and up to $250 million may be used for other crucial state capital needs. It is unclear whether the resolution must also be considered before the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight committee or if it can be referred directly to the calendar for consideration on the Senate floor. If the Senate approves the resolution, it would then come before voters. If a majority of voters ultimately approve the proposal, it would authorize up to $800 million for construction projects across the state, including the highest priority capital project on each public higher education institution campus.

Senate Education Committee hears immigration legislation

A bill to clarify concerns the University of Missouri System and other higher education institutions have related to immigration law was heard before the Senate Education Committee April 29. HCS for HB390, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone) would remove ambiguities in the law passed last year related to higher education being defined as a “public benefit” and thus subject to a documentation checking process that did not reflect how international students are accepted and enrolled. The bill also defines who must be verified to eliminate questions about online students, outlines the documents that are acceptable for review and establishes a certification process for higher education institutions and the Department of Higher Education. 

The University of Missouri and the Department of Higher Education were among those testifying in support of the bill. The committee did not vote on the bill, but senators are considering a new version that will take out controversial sections to provide the institutions with clarification needed to avoid problems in enrolling international students next year.

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House and Senate pass FY10 budget resolution

On Wednesday, which was President Obama's 100th day in office, both the House and Senate adopted S.Con.Res. 13, the FY10 Budget Resolution. It passed the House by a vote of 233-193, with no Republicans and 17 Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed the FY10 budget by a vote of 53 to 43, also with no Republican support.

The budget resolution is nonbinding, but it sets the framework for Congress to make legislative decisions on taxes, appropriations and entitlement programs later in the year. The agreement calls for spending $3.55 trillion in FY10. The resolution allows for legislation to extend tax cuts for middle-class families and for other extensions of current tax policy if the House passes a bill making "PAYGO" rules statutory once again. PAYGO, or the pay-as-you-go rule, prohibits any new Congressional spending or tax changes from adding to the federal deficit. The PAYGO requirement would not, however, apply to the Senate.

The Budget instructs House and Senate committees to report legislation dealing with the health care and the student loan program overhauls by October 15. These provisions were the most controversial of the FY10 budget. The instructions would allow those two bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes typically required.

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