September 12, 2014

State Issues

 

Legislators convene for veto session; Governor releases education funds

 

Lawmakers convened in Jefferson City on September 10 for their annual veto session.  After several weeks of discussion across the state about the pros and cons of ten tax-related bills which were passed by lawmakers in the final days of the regular legislative session and subsequently vetoed by the Governor, legislators overrode only two of them.  Senate Bill 829, sponsored by Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), is related to the burden of proof in tax liability cases. Senate Bill 727, sponsored by Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-St. Louis), creates a sales and use tax exemption for products purchased at farmers markets. Neither of these bills are projected to have a major fiscal impact on state revenues.

 

Governor Nixon argued in his veto message that the ten bills could create a $750 million or larger hole in the state and local budgets. As a result, he restricted or vetoed many items in the budget in June.  Of note to higher education, he restricted the 5 percent performance funding increase institutions were to receive as part of their core appropriations and a number of other operating and capital items.  He indicated that if lawmakers let his vetoes on the tax cut bills stand, he would release some of the funds.

 

The Governor honored his commitment on September 11, by announcing he was releasing $43.3 million in operating funds for higher education and additional funds for elementary and secondary education. See his announcement here.

 

Budget vetoes overridden during veto session, but some restrictions still remain

 

Legislators overrode a record number of line-item budget vetoes at the annual veto session on September 10.  A total of 47 budget items were approved over the Governor’s vetoes, totaling almost $50 million, $35.5 million of which is general revenue.  Among the priorities were funding for elementary and secondary school safety training grants, forensic exams for abused children, and regional autism projects.

 

Override attempts began in the House and moved to the Senate for a final vote.  The House overrode the following vetoes related to higher education, which were contained in HB 2003:

  • $1.5 million for the Missouri Telehealth Network Project ECHO to expand access to health care in underserved areas;
  • $300,000 for a collaboration between the University of Missouri – St. Louis and the state of Israel;
  • $5.2 million for the Missouri Rehabilitation Center;
  • $500,000 for the UMKC Centers for Neighborhood Initiative; and
  • $101,880 for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiative at the University of Central Missouri.

 

The Senate, however, never took up the higher education related veto overrides. When they received the higher education veto messages from the House, Senators had moved on to other override measures including  HB 1307, sponsored by Representative Kevin Elmer (R-Nixa), which changes the minimum waiting time for a woman to have an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. After the bill was brought up and Democrats began to filibuster the measure, debate was cut off through a procedural move to force a vote on the override. The motion passed 23-7, along party lines, and the Senate then adjourned without bringing up any of the House’s line-item overrides from the higher education budget bill.

 

While the vetoes will now stand, there are also a number of items in HB 2003 that are being withheld by the Governor due to state revenue concerns. These include $10 million for the MU School of Medicine partnership with CoxHealth and Mercy health systems and the following 50/50 capital match projects on UM campuses:

 

  • $7.4 million for the Free Enterprise Center at UMKC;
  • $10 million for the College of Business Administration building at UMSL;
  • $1.2 million for the Experimental Mine building at Missouri S&T;
  • $10 million for the Applied Learning Center at the MU College of Business; and
  • $38.5 million in bonding authorization for MU’s Lafferre Hall at the School of Engineering

 

Efforts will be ongoing with University of Missouri System friends and advocates to request that the Governor release these funds as state revenues continue to improve.

 

Missouri S&T Hosts Joint Legislative Committee

 

LU 8.12 S&T 2

From left: Senator Mike Kehoe, Representative Dave Schatz, Representative Glen Kolkmeyer, and Dr. Kamal Khayat.

 

LU 8.12 S&T 1

From left: Senator Mike Kehoe, Representative Glen Kolkmeyer, Representative Dave Schatz, and Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader.

On July 23, the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, which is co-chaired by Representative Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) and Senator Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City), toured facilities at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  After being welcomed by Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, the group toured the Advanced Construction Materials lab to learn about current transportation-related projects from Director of the lab, Dr. Kamal Khayat, and his students.  The committee then took S&T’s eBus to see the campus’ Solar Village and Innovation Park.  The committee then held its formal meeting to approve a few road naming proposals and had lunch with the Chancellor and members of her administration.

 

Federal Issues

 

President discusses University issues with members of the Congressional Delegation

 

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe traveled to Washington, D.C. this week for meetings with members of Missouri’s congressional delegation. He briefed them on news from the University of Missouri System and campuses including fall enrollment trends and his Show-Me Value Tour across the state to promote the benefits and value of post-secondary education.  Wolfe discussed congressional proposals on sexual assault at colleges and universities and also updated lawmakers on the University’s efforts to improve its sexual assault policies.

 

LU 8.12 Smith President

President Tim Wolfe (right) meets with Congressman Jason Smith during his visit to Washington this week.

Senator McCaskill visits MU, gives two lectures

LU 8.12 McCaskill Business

Senator McCaskill with Joan Gabel, Dean of the Trulaske College of Business  at MU. Photo courtesy of L.G. Patterson/Recess, Inc.

 

On September 12, Senator Claire McCaskill visited MU and gave two lectures to students. First, Senator McCaskill spoke to the Missouri Law Veterans Society (MLVS) about  her work on defense and military issues and answered student questions about the gridlock in Congress and legal and political implications of the Ferguson shooting. Later in the day, she was the featured speaker for the Schram Lecture in International Business at the MU Trulaske College of Business. During her presentation, she emphasized the importance of being knowledgeable about international news and briefed the group on congressional activity related to the Export-Import Bank.