April 17, 2015

State update:

Legislative leaders continue to negotiate on House and Senate spending bills

With three weeks to go before the deadline for completing spending bills, leaders of the House and Senate continue to meet to address several major issues in the FY16 budget bills. Both chambers passed different spending plans and have named conference committee members. For higher education and HB 3, institutions are waiting to see if the final budget provides a 1.3% core increase as approved by the House or the preferred 3% increase as approved by the Senate. There are a number of other differences in the higher education plan as well.

A key question for negotiators is how to approach spending for health, mental health and social services programs. The House provided program-specific appropriations, but the Senate opted for a block grant approach that provides the departments with one pool of funding and requests that they decide on their own how to prioritize the spending among the programs. The House version has a higher increase proposed for those departments than the Senate, but both versions provide an increase over current year spending. Which approach the legislature takes will impact funding that is available for many other areas of the budget.

Conference committee meetings have been scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week in anticipation of line-by-line reviews of the differences in the bills. The budget must be sent to the Governor by May 8.

House yet to take up bonding or maintenance and repair plans

As budget discussions continue, university leaders must wait to see what approach the House decides to take on maintenance and repair projects for higher education. The Senate approved a list of projects in SCR 9, as well as a bonding plan, SB 330, that provides the remainder of the $200 million for projects across the state. The House has yet to introduce a maintenance and repair spending plan for higher education or take up the Senate version of the bonding bill.

The University of Missouri System is to receive $95 million of the $200 million maintenance and repair pool. The first project, $38.5 million for renovations to Lafferre Hall at MU (see below), has already been appropriated from bonds issued last year. Four additional UM projects are in the list to be considered from the remaining funds: Stewart Hall (MU- $12.5 million); Spencer Chemistry and Biological Sciences (UMKC- $18.3 million); Schrenk Hall (Missouri S&T, $12.1 million); and Benton Hall (UMSL, $13.6 million).

Legislators, university leaders break ground on Lafferre renovation

More than a dozen legislators came to Columbia on Monday morning, April 13 to help break ground on the renovation of Lafferre Hall at MU’s College of Engineering. The project, funded in part through $38.5 million in bonding revenues from the state, will include a significant renovation of the College’s main engineering building including laboratories, classrooms and other facilities.

Participants in the program included Senators Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Mike Parson (R-Bolivar); and Representatives Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport), Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff), Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg), Caleb Jones (R-Columbia), Kip Kendrick (D-Columbia), Nick King (R-Liberty), Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson), Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), and Stephen Webber (D-Columbia). Ray Bozarth from US Senator Roy Blunt’s office also participated.

Groundbreaking

Above: Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) speaks outside Lafferre Hall, joined by (left to right) College of Engineering senior Lauren Wertz, Thomas Lafferre, President Tim Wolfe, Chancellor Bowen Loftin, and College of Engineering Interim Dean Robert Schwartz (Photo Credit: Shelby Kardell)

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Officials from the College of Engineering, the UM System, the University of Missouri, and the Missouri General Assembly and other honored guests break ground in celebration of the beginning of renovations to Lafferre Hall (Photo Credit: Shelby Kardell)

Legislator Profile: Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg)

Pearce

As a legislator, Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) takes pride being able to represent his community and has become a key leader on education topics in the Senate. A graduate of MU, he also represents the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and chairs the Senate Education Committee that handles many education policy issues.

“Education is the ticket for success. It is life-changing—the great equalizer,” he says. “You can overcome despair and achieve success. At the state-level, schools are economic engines. The creativity and vitality of education is what brings growth to Missouri.”

Currently, Pearce is working together with legislators in both chambers to increase STEM education and economic development opportunities. With the projected growth in STEM-related jobs, Pearce says that the state must find ways to benefit from that growth. Two possible solutions he has sponsored are SB 268 and SB 207, which focus on attracting interest in STEM majors and promoting retention of Missouri graduates.

Pearce received the Geyer Award for Public Service from MU in 2012 and also received the Gordon Warren Award from MU Extension for his sponsorship of Extension legislation in the past.

“I quickly learned that you need people to work with, and you need to rely on others in order to improve your own work,” he said. “Here in the legislature, you cannot accomplish anything alone. You have to work together. You need to listen, in order to forge compromise, because this is not a place for dictation.”

Federal update:

Congress passes, President Obama signs ‘doc fix’ health legislation

President Barack Obama signed HR 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, on April 16. The bill permanently repeals the sustainable growth rate (SGR), commonly referred to as the ‘doc fix.’ The SGR was signed into law in 1997 and was intended to control Medicare costs, but the cuts to physicians payments were delayed more than twenty times by Congress. University of Missouri Health Care could have seen an $8 million reduction in physician payments from Medicare if the cuts had been allowed to go into effect. The legislation continues a shift in federal health care reimbursements based on quality and value instead of a fee-for-service model.

HR 2 adjusts physician payments, delays reimbursement cuts for hospitals like University Hospital in Columbia that see a high number of uninsured patients, and extends an insurance program for low income mothers and children. The legislation passed the US House of Representatives by a vote of 392-37 and the US Senate by a vote of 92-8.

House Science Committee introduces new America COMPETES Act

The House Science Committee introduced a new America COMPETES Act, legislation that would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), research at the Department of Energy, and federal science education policy. While the legislation would provide authorization for two years for the science agencies, it would also limit funding increases for NSF and the DOE Office of Science and reallocate funding across the NSF directorates, favoring the natural sciences and engineering at the expense of geo and social sciences. It would also seek to reduce regulatory burden on research institutions and scientists. The bill does not have any Democratic co-sponsors and will likely face opposition once it moves out of Committee. A full copy of the bill can be found here.

MU Extension and 4-H advocate for USDA funding in FY 2016 appropriations process

A group of faculty and volunteers from MU Extension, along with 4-H students, visited Washington DC this week to advocate for funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The group met with the entire Missouri delegation, including Representative Sam Graves (R-MO/6th) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

graves

Above: (from left to right) Sally Jo Potter, Shelley Bush-Rowe, Lindsey Hendren (4-H student), Rep. Sam Graves (MO-6), Teresa Bishop, Mary Leuci, and Brent Carpenter

Keep up with key higher education legislation here.

Preview for next week:

Update on FY 2016 Budget