House of Representatives elect new Speaker, Todd Richardson
Following the resignation of House Speaker John Diehl, former Majority Leader Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) was elected by the Missouri House of Representatives to serve as Speaker for the final day of session. Before he was elected to the House in 2010, he served as the primary liaison for the University of Memphis’ government relations department and as an instructor at Three Rivers College. To Richardson, both experiences provided valuable lessons for his role as a legislator.
“As a former liaison for an institution of higher education, one of the many things I learned was the importance of higher education and the importance of legislators in making it a priority,” said Richardson. “Since the day I got here, it has always been a priority and it will continue to be.” Richardson taught business law and state government classes at Three Rivers College and found that working with students gave him a valuable perspective on their challenges and needs.
During this session, Richardson was a key supporter of operating and capital improvement funding for higher education. “I am very excited about the progress and investments in core funding and getting rid of the backlog of deferred maintenance,” he said.
Among his goals as Speaker next year will be to strengthen the connection between higher education output and job opportunities in the state. “Next year, we will focus more on the policy side of higher education,” he said. “We have to do a better job delivering graduates with the skill sets employers are demanding.”
Speaker Richardson is looking forward to work further with the UM System to align students skill sets with employer demands, providing educational opportunities, and contributing to the economic development of Missouri. “Here, in Missouri, we are very fortunate to have a land-grant university like the UM System,” said Richardson. “It is an institution that touches every corner of the state—through its campuses and through the citizens that benefit from the many county extension offices.”
Session recap: budget includes increase
As the state economy continues to recover, lawmakers this session supported a second year of performance funding for higher education institutions. The budget passed by the General Assembly included a 1.3 percent core increase consistent with the Governor’s recommendation at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session. The spending bill also included continued core funding of $10 million for the expansion of the MU School of Medicine’s clinical campus in Springfield.
UM will receive $5.7 million in performance funding as its share of the increase, plus the additional $10 million for the medical program.
50-50 match, maintenance and repair projects are highlight for UM
Last year, legislators approved $28.6 million in state matching funds for a project on each campus but funds were withheld through most of the fiscal year. The projects were included in a re-appropriations bill passed by lawmakers toward the end of session, and funds were then released by the Governor in April and May.
UM’s released projects include $1.2 million for Missouri S&T’s experimental mine building; $10 million for UMSL’s business administration building; $10 million for MU’s Applied Learning Center in the College of Business; and $7.4 million for UMKC’s Free Enterprise Center.
UM developed this program as an opportunity for state funds to be matched with funding from private donations. This represents the first time funds have been approved for the new program.
In addition, legislators approved a maintenance and repair package for higher education that includes $95 million in renovation funds for UM campus projects. The renovations will be funded through revenue bonds approved by lawmakers last session but not yet appropriated.
The UM projects include $18 million for UMKC’s Spencer Chemistry renovation; $13 million for UMSL’s Benton Hall renovation; $12.5 million for MU’s Stewart Hall renovation; and $12 million for Missouri S&T’s Schrenk Hall renovation. A fifth project, $38.5 million for renovation of Lafferre Hall at MU, was started earlier this year.
Above: from left to right: Kansas City Chamber of Commerce board member Matt Condon, Dean Kevin Truman, Dean David Donnelly, Chamber board member Peter deSilva, Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Heeter, Governor Nixon, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton, Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green, Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies, Robert W. Plaster Foundation Executive Director Dr. Dolly Plaster Clement at the May 12 announcement releasing UMKC’s $7.4 million for the Free Enterprise Center.
Above: From left to right, Governor Jay Nixon, MU Chancellor Bowen Loftin, project donor Sam Hamacher, and UM System President Tim Wolfe at May 18 announcement releasing MU’s $10 million for the Applied Learning Center.
Legislative highlights for scholarships and financial aid
Funding for the Bright Flight and the Access Missouri scholarship programs that serve thousands of UM students will continue at levels similar to what was received in FY15. UM enrolls more Bright Flight students than any other institution in the state, and legislation introduced this year would have provided a $5,000 forgivable loan in addition to the current award levels for recipients who stay in the state after graduation. The bill passed the House but did not make it to the Senate floor for consideration.
A bill to support agriculture students was approved by lawmakers and signed by the Governor. HB 259, sponsored by Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho), creates 80 scholarships, presented as forgivable loans, for $5,000 to students pursuing degrees in agriculture. The students must do internships or work during the summer within an agriculture-related field and stay in the state after graduation for the loans to be forgiven.
Lawmakers pass reimbursement legislation on final day
On the last day of session, the legislature gave final approval to SB 210 which extends the federal reimbursement allowance (FRA) authorization for one year. The FRA is a tax on health providers that is matched by the federal government to help fund the Medicaid program. Had the authorization not been approved, the state would not have been able to draw down federal funding for Medicaid. The other signature health care legislation was SB 239 and signed into law on May 7. This bill reforms the medical malpractice laws of Missouri.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, 66th US Secretary of State speaks at Missouri S&T
Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader hosted Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the 66th U.S. secretary of state, for S&T’s 31st Remmers Special Artist/Lecturer Series on May 14. Here, Chancellor Schrader and Dr. Rice are pictured with Chancellor Schrader’s daughter, Ella, and husband, Jeff, prior to the lecture. Dr. Rice discussed a variety of topics ranging from international affairs, to the importance of education, to domestic violence issues in the National Football League.
House Committee releases details on FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill
This week the House Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee introduced the fiscal year (FY) 2016 CJS appropriations bill that includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion, an increase of $50 million over FY 2015 levels. While the bill language has not been released, CJS Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) has indicated that the additional $50 million would be directed to Research and Related Activities, but unevenly directed to “core sciences” (i.e. engineering and physical sciences) at the expense of social and behavioral sciences.
The bill would also fund NIST at $855 million, $9 million below the FY 2015 funding level. Within NIST, funding is not included for any new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) projects, although other agencies will be able to continue to fund NNMIs. The bill funds the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at $18.5 billion, an increase of $519 million above the FY 2015 enacted amount of $18 billion. Reflecting congressional concerns regarding China and security issues regarding intellectual property, the bill includes language that prohibits NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from engaging in bilateral activities with China unless authorized or certified via procedures established in this bill.
A press release from the committee is available here.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee considers 21st Century Cures legislation
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health this week considered the “21st Century Cures” Act, legislation that would reauthorize the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and create new programs at NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accelerate research and cures. The UM System has joined with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in supporting the increased authorization levels for the NIH included in the legislation, and the creation of a new NIH innovation fund which would fund things such as precision medicine and grants for young investigators. The UM System has asked Representative Billy Long (R-MO-7), who serves on House Energy and Commerce, to support the NIH authorization levels and the NIH Innovation Fund, as the legislation moves through the committee.
A copy of the legislation can be found here.