Jan. 29, 2010

Federal relations

Higher education included in president’s State of the Union address

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President Barack Obama gives the State of the Union address in Washington. Photo courtesy of the White House.

During his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress this week, President Obama announced key ideas affecting higher education, including access, student loans, a jobs bill and a three-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending.

Obama urged Congress to pass legislation to end the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), a private sector student loan subsidy program. Additionally, he urged Congress to extend a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. Finally, Obama proposed limiting monthly student loan repayment amounts to ten percent above the basic income level.

White House officials announced the president’s FY11 budget will contain a three-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending. However, the proposed freeze will not be across the board and will not affect the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, veterans programs or foreign aid. Additionally, some education-related program budgets will increase, including student aid, Pell Grants and energy research.

State relations

Springfield area legislators participate in Extension workshop

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Reps. Norr, Lampe and Dixon visit during a break about the possible uses of the Web sites and programs on which they were trained during the MU Extension workshop.

University of Missouri Extension hosted a legislative workshop Jan. 16 in Springfield to provide information about economic, health, population and education data available from the university.

Participants included Reps. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield), Charlie Norr (D-Springfield), Shane Schoeller (R-Willard) and Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), as well as staff from the offices of U.S. Sen. Kit Bond and U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt.

Speakers included Tracey Greever-Rice, associate director of the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis; Tom Johnson, director of the Community Policy Analysis Center; Chris Fulcher, co-director of the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems; and Mary Simon Leuci, MU Extension program director.

“I see some great applications for this information at the state level and in my own office,” said Rep. Sarah Lampe.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

Extension hosts annual Business Development Client Showcase

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Rep. Jim Viebrock (R-Billings) visits with constituents from the Springfield area.

University of Missouri Extension hosted its annual Business Development Client Showcase in Jefferson City Jan. 26-27. The event included a showcase featuring “Rising Stars of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” in the Capitol Rotunda, sponsored by Extension’s Small Business and Technology Development Centers (SBTDC) and the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.

Legislators attended a dinner Tuesday evening featuring several small business owners who told of their dreams of entrepreneurship, their business goals and how they accomplished those goals. Lawmakers then had the opportunity to view displays and meet with business owners during the Capital showcase Wednesday. Legislators heard about how the business development centers helped small business owners start their business, grow sales, create jobs, obtain government contracts and commercialize technology. Several legislators presented resolutions to their constituent participants in recognition of their success.

For more photos from this event, click here.

UMSL hosts breakfast for legislators

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The University of Missouri, in conjunction with the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Assoc., hosted a breakfast in Jefferson City for legislators on Jan. 27. Here, Chancellor Tom George greets Rep. Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis).

Columbia legislators discuss higher education with area alumni

Four members of the Columbia legislative delegation participated in a legislative forum on higher education sponsored by the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Boone County Chapter and the College of Arts and Science Alumni Chapter. The event, which attracted more than 50 alumni from the Columbia area, was held at Harpo’s in downtown Columbia.

Participants included Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Reps. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) and Paul Quinn (D-Monroe City). The legislators discussed the importance of protecting the university’s operating appropriation, supporting the bond issue for capital improvements and enacting changes to the state’s Access Missouri scholarship program to equalize award levels among students attending public and private institutions.

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Rep. Paul Quinn (left) visits with Michael Ouart of MU Extension.

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Sen. Kurt Schaefer discusses the state’s budget challenges.

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Rep. Stephen Webber talks about tax credits for health-related building projects.

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Rep. Chris Kelly reviews the capital improvement challenges facing Missouri.

Jan. 22, 2010

State Update

Governor announces proposed FY11 state budget

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From left: Tom Ray, UMSL Chancellor Tom George, and Sandy Ray prepare for the governor’s State of the State address Jan. 20 in the House Gallery. The Rays have three children attending University of Missouri campuses and were introduced by the governor during his speech. Sandy is employed by the athletics department at UMSL.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced his plans for the FY11 state budget during his State of the State address Jan. 20. In discussing the tough budget challenges expected for the remainder of this year and next year, Nixon urged the legislature to work in a bipartisan manner for continued fiscal restraint.       Public two- and four-year institutions entered into an agreement with the governor last fall to refrain from increasing tuition for in-state undergraduate students in exchange for no more than a 5.2 percent reduction in overall budgets. This resulted in a $7.7 million reduction for community colleges and a $42 million reduction for public four-year institutions.

Nixon recommended $427.9 million in funding for the University of Missouri System. This 5.2 percent reduction totals $23.5 million and removes the $24.2 million in one-time funding received in FY10 for Caring for Missourians. Most of the University of Missouri-related items, including the University Hospital, Missouri Rehabilitation Center, telehealth, MOREnet, Missouri Institute of Mental Health, Missouri Kidney Program and the State Historical Society, were cut between 15 percent and 35 percent.

Also announced Jan. 20 were additional expenditure reductions for the current fiscal year. The only UM program subject to these withholdings is MOREnet with a $1.9 million withholding. All of the governor’s recommendations for FY11 are subject to House and Senate review and approval.

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From left, chair of the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Legislative Network Wally Pfeffer visits with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Director of Extension Michael Ouart during visits with legislators Jan. 20 in conjunction with the Governor’s State of the State and budget address.

UM curator appears before legislative committee

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University of Missouri Curator David Bradley, left, appears with Sen. Brad Lager (R-Savannah) Jan. 20 after Bradley’s appearance before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee.

The appointments of both Bradley and Curator Wayne Goode were approved by the full senate this week.

Nixon visits MU to tout jobs plan

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Gov. Jay Nixon stopped in Columbia Jan. 21 to discuss his new jobs plan at Newsy.com, a next-generation multimedia company near the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Also visiting with him was state Director of Economic Development David D. Kerr, left, and Rep. Mary Still (D-Columbia).

Senate Education Committee hears from DESE on federal proposal

Members of the Senate Education Committee heard a detailed proposal Jan. 20 from Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro. The commissioner described a major reorganization in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s approach to overseeing schools in an effort to to secure federal funds from the “Race to the Top” initiative.

The state’s $750 million federal grant proposal includes adopting new national standards for classroom curriculum, rating teacher preparation programs based on success of teachers in class, enacting tougher standards for charter schools, improving the alignment of graduation requirements and college entrance requirements, and developing a quicker intervention plan for failing schools. Tt also includes significant expenditures to improve broadband Internet access.

Nicastro also noted plans to improve teacher training in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The state expects to hear a response on the federal proposal by April 1.

MU alum is ‘Doctor of the Day’

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MU alum Dr. Michael J. Bukstein was ‘Doctor of the Day’ at the state capitol Jan. 21. He was escorted by Rep. Rachel Bringer (D-Palmyra). Bukstein is a surgeon in Hannibal and is a graduate of MU’s School of Medicine.

House majority floor leader leads policy discussion at MU

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House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) stopped by the Truman School of Public Affairs at MU Jan. 21 to lead a discussion with a policy leadership class.

Tilley discussed his rise in leadership, policy issues at the federal and state level, and sought feedback from the students on a variety of issues.

Jan. 15, 2010

Budget outlook for FY10 and FY11

Gov. Jay Nixon will give his annual State of the State address Jan. 20 to highlight his budgetary and legislative priorities for the upcoming year. While specifics on FY11 recommendations are not yet available, state Budget Director Linda Luebbering spoke to the House Budget Committee this week about the outlook for the rest of FY10 and projections for FY11.

Currently, the state is projecting $6.97 billion in collections for FY10 – equivalent to a 6.4 percent decline or loss of $480 million, which is comparable to FY05 receipts. So far, $630 million of expenditure restrictions have been made, but with a projected 6.4 percent decline, around $170 million more in restrictions will be required. These are expected to be announced in late January. 

The state is estimating $7.2 billion in collections in FY11, which is a 3.6 percent increase over last year. While a good sign, these collections are well below previous years. Remaining federal stabilization money will be utilized in FY11, but the situation remains challenging.  

Access legislation filed in the Senate

A bill to equalize need-based scholarship awards for students at public and private four-year institutions was filed by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) this week. SB784 would change award levels so that all four-year students would receive up to $2,850 and two year-students would receive up to $1,250. Currently, award levels are set at $4,600 for students at private institutions, $2,150 for students at public four-year institutions and $1,000 for students at public two-year institutions. Currently, more than half of the $95 million in state funds appropriated to Access Missouri goes to students attending private institutions.

The bill differs from similar bills last session in that the changes do not take effect until the 2014-2015 school year, so no current students would see award levels change while in school. A similar bill is expected to be filed in the House. 

University of Missouri Curator testifies before Senate Committee

University of Missouri Curator and former Sen. Wayne Goode appears with Sen. Rita Days University of Missouri Curator and former Sen. Wayne Goode appears with Sen. Rita Days (D-St. Louis) on after his appearance before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee Jan. 13. The committee approved his appointment and the full Senate will vote on his appointment in the near future.

Resolution introduced to bond higher education projects

A resolution with bipartisan support was introduced in the House this week that would place a plan to issue bonds for higher education and other capital improvement construction. HJR77, sponsored by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) and Rep. Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) and co-sponsored by more than a third of the House, would establish the Fifth State Building Bond to provide nearly $800 million for public construction projects. 

Higher education institutions could each see a top-priority project funded by such a proposal if approved by voters. It also could provide funding needed to complete the projects originally approved under the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative that have not been funded. A similar resolution passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

If approved by the General Assembly, the measure would appear on the November 2010 ballot unless the governor calls an August election.

Senators complete briefing seminars

Caption: Dr. Deborah Noble-Triplett and Dr . Dan Lowry present an update on the University of Missouri’s P-20 task force before a meeting of the Senate Jan. 14.

Caption: Dr. Deborah Noble-Triplett and Dr . Dan Lowry present an update on the University of Missouri’s P-20 task force before a meeting of the Senate Jan. 14.

Senate President Pro-Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) organized a series of briefing seminars for senators on topics ranging from education, economic development and health care to preparations for the U.S. Census. The final seminar on Jan. 14 featured a review of the state’s P-20 task force efforts by the Department of Higher Education and a report on University of Missouri P-20 efforts by Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Deborah Noble-Triplett and Dr. Dan Lowry, Co-Executive Director of MU’s Partnership for Educational Renewal.

Triplett and Lowry discussed the university’s initiative to survey institutions about programs to help improve retention of K-12 students and identify challenges that lead to leaks in the pipeline. Senators also heard from Higher Education Commissioner Robert Stein about the state’s previous P-20 studies and efforts.

Lawmakers also heard updates on plans for the U.S. Census in Missouri. The state’s projected population of 6,022,430 people would be just enough to allow Missouri to maintain its current number of nine congressional seats.

“We retain that seat by only 5,271 people,” said Matt Hesser with the Office of Administration. “Missing just an average of 10 four-person households per county could mean the difference between retaining the nine congressional seats and losing one of them.” 

Other reports in the seminars included updates by the three 2020 visioning committee chairs charged with identifying long-range policy goals involving education, health care and economic development. All three committees have conducted preliminary hearings and plan to gather additional input as they develop reports by the end of 2010.

Joint Committee on Education discusses higher education funding model

The Department of Higher Education provided a report on the status of funding formula models to the Joint Committee on Education as required by state statute on Jan. 13. The report examined the history of funding models for both community colleges and public four-year institutions. 

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Paul Wagner reviewed the models developed by the Higher Education Funding Task Force and answered questions regarding how each formula compensates for enrollment growth and program mix.

The committee took no action on the reports.

Education committees learn about Midwest Higher Education Compact

Caption:  Midwestern Higher Education Compact President Dr. Larry Isaak appeared before a meeting of several legislative committees Jan. 13 to update them on Missouri's participation in the compact.

Caption: Midwestern Higher Education Compact President Dr. Larry Isaak appeared before a meeting of several legislative committees Jan. 13 to update them on Missouri's participation in the compact.

Missouri is one of several midwestern states that participates in the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC), which provides cost savings in software and hardware purchases and property insurance coverage, as well as a student exchange program and policy research. Compact President Dr. Larry Isaak provided legislators from the Senate Education, House Higher Education, House Elementary and Secondary Education and House Appropriations-Education Committees with an update on how Missouri had participated in the past year during a hearing Jan. 13.

Missouri higher education institutions and schools saved more than $42 million since joining the compact in 1991 by using cost savings and student exchange programs. For FY09, education institutions and schools achieved savings of more than $4.3 million, compared to the state’s investment of just $95,000 per year.

House committee hears MOSIRA bill

Rep. Tim Flook (R-Liberty) presented HB1511 at a hearing held this week by the House Job Creation and Economic Development Committee. The bill, known as the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, creates the Missouri Science and Innovation Authority to attract and retain existing and new science and innovation companies.

Under this legislation, a percentage of income taxes from life science industry employees will be deposited into the Science and Innovation Reinvestment Fund. A newly created board will oversee the distribution of money from the fund and invest those funds in projects that further science and innovation within the state. 

 At the hearing, business and life science experts testified in support of the bill, stating that many other states already have these incentives as a proven job growth strategy. 

Missouri Right to Life announced opposition to the bill unless it includes anti-embryonic stem cell research language. They are concerned that state money generated through the program could support embryonic stem cell research. 

In mid-December, Gov. Jay Nixon held several press conferences throughout the state to publicly endorse this legislation. The committee anticipates voting on the bill next week.

Jan. 8, 2010

Lawmakers begin 2010 session with budget, ethics on priority list

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Legislators in the Missouri House and Senate kicked off the 2010 legislative session Jan. 6 with pledges to maneuver through the difficult budget situation and focus on ethics reform. Lawmakers assembled at a time when state unemployment hovers around 9.5 percent and the state faces an estimated 6.9 percent decline in revenue over last fiscal year. The resignation of several lawmakers regarding ethics issues also prompted both chambers to take steps to make ethics reform a priority in the coming weeks.

In photo at right, House Speaker Ron Richard pounds the gavel to begin the 2010 session Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Tim Brommel, House Communications Office)

Higher education budget challenges are buffered by an agreement reached with the governor to fund higher education at about 95 percent of current-year operating levels in exchange for another year of no tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students. See related article for more details.

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) presented his goals for 2010 in his final opening day address by discussing the need for ethics reform, including a ban on legislators receiving contributions during session and the need for an independent investigator.  He also addressed the challenges the FY11 state budget will present, charging the Senate to work in a bipartisan manner to set the right priorities, as well as emphasizing the need to plan for the future, citing the creation of his 2020 committees that are reviewing crucial issues like economic development, health care and education.

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From right: House minority leader Paul LeVota and Reps. J.C. Kuessner and Terry Swinger address the media during a press conference following the opening day session. (Photo courtesy Tim Brommel, House Communications Office)

House Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) also gave his final opening address. He pledged to focus on ethics reform and announced formation of the Special Standing Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform. Chaired by Rep. Kevin Wilson (R-Neosho) and Rep. Sally Faith (R-St. Charles), the committee will be the center of debate on several bills already filed that make changes in ethics laws. Proposals to ban lobbyist gifts, establish campaign limits on certain individuals or corporations doing business with the state, and tighten regulations for current legislators also doing political consulting have been introduced, as well as several bills to reinstate campaign contribution limits. House lawmakers from both parties agreed some form of ethics reform likely will be approved, although reinstatement of campaign contribution limits continues to be controversial.

Both chambers also may debate a proposal to eliminate the state income tax in favor of a modified sales tax plan. Similar bills were considered last year.

State leaders agree on consensus revenue estimate

Gov. Jay Nixon, House Budget Chair Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) and Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) announced an agreement on the state’s projected revenues through the end of FY10 and for FY11.

For the remainder of FY10, total revenue collections are estimated at $6.9 billion, a 6.4 percent decline over FY09.  Leaders are predicting modest growth in FY11 of $7.2 billion, or approximately a 3 percent increase in revenue collections. This is still $780 million below revenue collections in FY08, and even with a positive estimate for the upcoming fiscal year, balancing the budget will present a challenge for legislators and the governor.

Commonly known as the consensus revenue estimate, the figures are determined by a bipartisan group of state budget experts in order to provide a guideline for the Governor and legislative leaders as they build Missouri’s budget.

Nixon is scheduled to deliver his State of the State and Budget Address Jan. 20.

University of Missouri to focus on five key committees as session begins

Key higher education issues will come before committees with new leadership in the Senate as the 2010 session gets under way.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is now chaired by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), and Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) has been named vice-chair. This committee is the primary budget writing panel for the upper chamber.  On the policy side, education-related issues will come before the Senate Education Committee and its new chairman, Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg).

House committees dealing with higher education issues will include the House Budget Committee again chaired by Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) and the House Appropriations-Education Committee again chaired by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville). These committees normally complete their work on the budget by late March or early April. The House Higher Education Committee chaired by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) will continue to review policy issues related to higher education.

January will be the busiest month for bill filing as lawmakers draft and introduce proposals and committees prepare to debate. Go here to see a list of House bills filed or here to see a similar list of Senate bills filed.

Federal update

Congress concludes busy month with consideration of health care, appropriations measures

The House and Senate worked until the Christmas holiday to pass both the FY10 appropriations bills and health care legislation. Both the House and Senate passed H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, which funded the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Education among others, but it did not include money for Defense. A separate funding measure for that department was taken up later in the month and included a controversial increase in the debt limit. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill joined the Senate Republicans, including Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, in voting against the measure. The president signed the $446.8 billion consolidated appropriations measure into law Dec. 16. The final appropriations bill, H.R. 3326, the Defense Appropriations Act, was passed and signed into law Dec. 19.

The passing of the annual appropriations bills was extended this year so the Senate could continue to debate H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. In the first Christmas Eve vote in 35 years, the Senate passed its version of the health care overhaul 60-to-39 on a party-line vote. It was the 25th straight day of debate on the legislation in the Senate. Only one Republican supported the bill that the House approved last month 220 to 215, and no Republicans backed the Senate version. The Senate bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, add 15 million people to the Medicaid rolls and subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people at a cost of $871 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Additionally, the CBO estimates the bill would provide coverage to 31 million uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019. One-third of those remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants. The Senate and House versions are vastly different as the House version contained a public insurance option and the Senate version did not.

House and Senate leadership are working informally and will not observe the formal conference committee procedure to craft a compromise bill. This bill will have a straight up and down vote by both the House and Senate. Leadership hopes to have a bill passed and sent to the president before the annual State of the Union address at the end of January.  At the very latest, House and Senate leadership have promised the president a bill to sign by the first of February.