Feb. 19, 2010

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UM Vice President for Finance and Administration Nikki Krawitz testifies Feb. 16 before the House Appropriations-Education Committee on the FY11 operating budget.

Universities testify before House Appropriations Committee

The House Appropriations– Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), met Feb. 16 and 17 to take testimony from the state’s four-year public institutions. The committee requested that each institution address specific questions during their testimony, including whether or not salary increases were given, how the institution plans to handle the governor’s proposed 5.2 percent cut, and what preparations institutions are making for FY11 and FY12.

University of Missouri System Vice President for Finance and Administration Nikki Krawitz outlined a number of current cost containment strategies implemented by the university, including hiring freezes, supply chain management initiatives and requiring employees to contribute to the pension fund.

Next week, the committee will consider amendments to the appropriations bills for both higher education and elementary and secondary education. Bills will then move to the House Budget Committee for further consideration.

Senate committee hears bill to equalize Access Missouri scholarships

A bill to equalize the award levels for students at public and private institutions receiving the state’s need-based Access Missouri scholarship drew a full house Feb. 17 during a hearing before the Senate Education Committee.

SB784, sponsored by Sens. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), would place maximum award levels for public and private students at $2,850 beginning in the 2014-2015 school year so that current students are not impacted by the change. Currently, public students can receive up to $2,150 while private students can receive up to $4,600.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Council on Public Higher Education. Other institutions and groups testifying in support included Missouri State University, Missouri Southern State University, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, the Mizzou Alumni Association Legislative Network, the Mizzou Flagship Council, and the MU Parent’s Association. Several students and student leaders also spoke in favor of the change, along with a representative of the governor’s office.

Opponents included Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein, who testified on behalf of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.  The CBHE voted to oppose the bill last week with a majority of members arguing that the current award structure was developed with input from all sectors and should be allowed to continue until the program sunsets in 2014. Several private school students and administrators also opposed the bill. The committee took no action.

House Higher Education Committee hears bill to expand military waiver

The Missouri Returning Heroes Program was adopted by the Legislature in 2008 to require public institutions of higher education to waive all but $50 per credit hour in tuition for veterans who had served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. A bill to expand that waiver to all veterans who have served in combat, including those serving prior to 2001, was considered before the House Higher Education Committee Feb. 16.

HB1504, sponsored by Rep. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) would only impact a few additional combat veterans since there remains a 10-year window of eligibility from discharge. The bill also clarifies that students who have been home schooled should not be denied eligibility for public financial aid.  The committee took no action on the bill.

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Senator Bond and Doug Mertens hold a picture created for the Senator by John Mertens.

Bond Tours MU Thompson Center Honors Senator Bond

U.S. Sen. Kit Bond visited the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Feb.17.  The visit allowed the center and families to thank Bond for his help in securing $750,000 in the FY10 omnibus spending bill. The funds will assist the center with numerous structural improvements and the purchase of enhanced technology used to diagnose and treat autism. The funds will also help Thompson Center faculty serve more Missouri children and families while enhancing the center’s national reputation for high-quality research.

Senate holds hearing on MOSIRA legislation

Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Peters) presented SB895 during a hearing before the Senate Jobs, Economic Development, and Local Government Committee on Feb. 17  The bill establishes the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act to create, attract and retain existing and new science and innovation companies. Under this legislation, a percentage of income taxes from life science industry employees would be deposited into a fund to be used to attract high technology and high wage jobs to Missouri.

At the hearing, numerous business and life science experts testified in support of the bill, including the chambers of commerce from Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield and the state chamber.  The supporters argued that many other states already have these incentives in place and they have proven to be a successful job growth strategy.  The governor held several press conferences around the state publicly endorsing the proposal in mid-December.

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UM student representative confirmed by Gubernatorial Appointments Committee

University of Missouri student Laura Confer appears before the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee Feb. 17 for her confirmation as student representative to the University of Missouri Board of Curators. Confer, a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology, was sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale).

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Pat Conway, left, and Hope Whitehead

Two new House members sworn in

The Missouri House of Representatives welcomed two new members Feb. 17 as a result of special elections. Pat Conway (D-St. Joseph) was sworn in to replace Ed Wildberger; and  Hope Whitehead (D-St. Louis) was sworn in to replace Talibdin El-Amin.

Legislative Day planned for March 2

Make plans now to join friends, alumni and supporters of the University of Missouri for the 36th annual University of Missouri Legislative Day March 2. Highlights include Capitol visits beginning at 8 a.m., displays in the third floor rotunda featuring university programs, and a rally in the first floor rotunda at 9:30 a.m. Capitol visits will continue until 2 p.m.

This year, Legislative Day coincides with the governor’s math, engineering, technology and science (METS).

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