May 20, 2009

A publication of the University of Missouri Office of Government Relations

Legislative Update

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Operating budget

In November 2008, the prospects for a positive outcome for the university's operating budget looked bleak. The Coordinating Board for Higher Education sought reaction to a proposed budget cut of 15, 20 or 25 percent. The federal government had yet to consider stabilization funding together with stimulus funding as a response to the falling economy. It was at this time Gov. Jay Nixon crafted an agreement with public higher education institutions in the state to hold appropriations at FY09 levels if the institutions would maintain tuition levels at the current amount.

This goal was accomplished when the General Assembly approved HB3 on May 7. The University of Missouri's appropriation total for FY10 was $451.6 million. The General Assembly used $49 million in federal stabilization funds in order to meet this goal. The Legislature submitted the budget to Gov. Nixon by the mandated deadline, but the budget bills are still awaiting his signature.

Potential funding for Caring for Missourians

The University of Missouri's core budget appropriation for FY10 contains $24.2 million in one-time federal stabilization funds that could be used for Caring for Missourians, maintenance and repair or other uses. The university is currently reviewing proposals for use of the one-time funds and will continue to pursue ongoing funding.

For the last two years, public higher education institutions have requested funding for Caring for Missourians. If fully funded, the initiative would provide $39.8 million for ongoing funding that would be distributed among the public two- and four-year higher education institutions to increase the number of health professional graduates in the state. The university's share of the $39.8 million was $24 million.

Capital improvements

The General Assembly gave final approval to HB22. The bill appropriates federal stabilization funds for a number of UM capital projects, including all of the remaining Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative projects. Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU received $31.2 million, Benton and Stadler Halls at UMSL received $28 million, and funding for a number of UM agricultural research centers across the state was also included. This brings to close a long and winding road regarding these capital projects over the last four years.

Legislature authorizes Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center deal

During the last week of session, legislators approved HB918, sponsored by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), which authorizes the governor to convey Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center to the University of Missouri Board of Curators. University of Missouri Health System has worked with the state Department of Mental Health to assume responsibility for the center. Legislators also approved $13 million in state appropriations for capital improvements at the center. Final approval of the deal rests with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The legislation and the appropriations bill are awaiting the governor's signature.

Immigration bill to become law

On May 15, the General Assembly adopted HB390, a bill that addressed the concerns of the higher education community over the immigration legislation passed last year. Last session's bill did not clarify whether the definition of "public benefit" was limited to postsecondary education only or if it included postsecondary education financial assistance as well. It also raised questions about international student admissions and the verification process for checking students' legal status.

This year's bill addresses all of these issues by removing higher education from the definition of "public benefit," which solves a timing problem regarding the admission of international students. It adds a new section that clearly defines "postsecondary education public benefits" and "covered students." It also describes which documents may be relied on to verify citizenship status and includes in this list the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The bill also contains an emergency clause, which means that it will take effect with the governor's signature. The university had requested the clause to remove any questions about enrolling international students for the fall semester.

Legislation allows institution to keep portion of endowment for operations

The General Assembly approved HB239, the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act that specifies guidelines for the management, investment and expenditures of endowment funds held by charitable institutions. The bill contains a provision that would allow UM to assess up to 2 percent annually of the total market value of the UM academic endowment to support internal endowment administration and development functions.

Proposals to allow conceal and carry on campus do not pass

A proposal that would allow students age 21 and older with a permit to carry concealed weapons on college campuses passed the House in two different bills but never received Senate consideration during the legislative session. Originally introduced as HB645 by Rep. Brian Munzlinger (R-Lewistown), the bill was amended onto a larger conceal and carry bill that was sent to the House but failed to be considered on the floor. Similar language that also required the gun to be kept in a locked case when not in use was amended later in the session to a bill dealing with liquor laws. That bill also was never considered by the Senate.

The University of Missouri System and other institutions came out in opposition to the conceal and carry on campus issue out of concern for student and employee safety. Jack Watring, director of the MU Police Department, listed several reasons why he and other police officers had concerns about the bill.

House does not vote on legislation to equalize Access scholarships

Students receiving Missouri's need-based Access scholarship at the University of Missouri System and other public four-year schools will not see any change in award amounts after legislators failed to advance plans to equalize the scholarships for students at both public and private institutions. Currently students at private schools receive up to $4,600 in Access scholarships, while those at public institutions are limited to $2,150. SB390 and HB792 were introduced to place scholarship awards at all institutions at $2,850. Gov. Nixon also recommended the changes as part of his State of the State address.

Although public institution advocates raised considerable awareness about the award limit disparities, students at private institutions were successful at raising lawmaker concerns about the impact such a scholarship cut would mean to them. In the end, several legislators suggested increasing public awards or grandfathering in current private school students so as not to impact current awards, but none of those proposals advanced.

The Senate did vote on an amendment to enact the Access changes that was proposed by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), but that amendment was defeated by a 14-16 vote in early April.

At-large curator proposal not passed by House committee

During two different instances, the House Rules Committee failed to pass legislation to allow for an at-large member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. The university is seeking the change since the constitution requires nine board members, but state statute says not more than one can come from the same congressional district. With many experts predicting Missouri will drop to eight congressional districts after the next census, some change will have to be enacted.

The university worked with House and Senate sponsors to introduce legislation to allow for "at least one but no more than two" members from each congressional district. HB515 and SB255 were introduced and passed by the education panels in both chambers. The Senate went on to pass SB255 by a 29-3 vote, and in the process also defeated an amendment to make the ninth member a voting student, a position opposed by the board of curators.

In the House, where all bills must flow through the Rules Committee before moving to the floor for consideration, the panel rejected both HB515 and SB255. Speaker Pro-Tem Bryan Pratt (R-Lee's Summit) played a central role in that activity as a proponent of the voting student concept. He serves on the Rules Committee and also filed legislation to enact the voting student, although that bill was never considered in committee.

Higher education bonding resolution debated, but not passed

While it did not achieve final passage, both chambers of the General Assembly brought up HJR32, sponsored by Reps. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) and Steve Tilley (R-Perryville) and handled in the Senate by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia). The resolution proposed a constitutional amendment to authorize bonds for higher education and other crucial state construction projects. The resolution originally proposed up to $700 million in bonds, specifically for higher education projects. It was modified in committee to authorize up to $800 million in bonds, with no less than $550 million dedicated to higher education and up to $250 million dedicated to other necessary state construction projects. After an amendment was offered on the floor to increase the authorized amount to $2 billion, the bill was laid over on the informal calendar.

The bonds, if approved by a majority of voters on a statewide ballot, would provide funds for the top priority capital construction projects on each public college and university campus. Although the proposal failed to gain legislative approval this session, it is expected to be reconsidered in the future by the General Assembly.


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