May 16, 2011

2011 legislative session comes to an end

The 2011 legislative session concluded on Friday, May 13 with several higher education policy matters being approved and several large tax and economic policy questions still on the table.

For higher education, the highlight of the session was an operating budget reduction that ended up being much less than many policymakers had predicted earlier in the year. With the budget settled on May 6, lawmakers focused on economic development, tax credit reform, and other measures in the final week. For higher education, highlights of the final week were passage of a limited dental teaching license and a nursing education incentive grant program.

Legislature sends limited dental teaching license bill to the Governor

HB 591, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson) was truly agreed to and finally passed by the House and Senate on May 9. The bill allows the Board of Dentistry in Missouri to issue a limited teaching license to dentists who plan to teach at UMKC’s School of Dentistry but who received their dental degree from an institution outside of the U.S.   The School had sought the language so that it could try to fill several vacancies on the staff it has not been able to fill due to salary levels much below what dentists can make in private practice.  Applicants would still have to meet all the same criteria and pass all exams that dentists from this country would have to pass.  The bill now needs the Governor’s signature to become law.

Nursing Education Incentive grant fund goes to Governor for approval

HB 223, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) establishes a grant to address nursing shortages. Also incorporated into this bill is HB 231, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), which authorizes the Advanced Placement Incentive Grants for certain A+ or Access MO recipients who have completed advanced placement courses in math or science. This bill passed the General Assembly May 12 and is waiting for Governor Nixon’s signature.

Session recap

Budget

The General Assembly passed the higher education budget for FY12 in  HB 3, which provides a 5.45% cut to the budgets of all 2 and 4-year institutions. The cut is equivalent to $12 million more than recommended by the Governor. The legislature’s budget also included $2 million for a UMKC/MSU joint pharmacy program and an additional $1 million in competitive grants to nursing schools.

Interim President Steve Owens released the following statement regarding the budget: “On behalf of the University of Missouri family, I want to thank members of the legislature for their efforts to minimize reductions in state support for higher education. We understand the difficult budget choices faced by the legislature and appreciate those members who recognize that investing in public higher education is a benefit to us all.  The additional $12 million allocated to the state’s thirteen four-year institutions enables the University of Missouri to increase financial aid for its students and lower the average net cost of attendance for Missouri families. However, the cut of 5.45% in state support for operations still leaves the university with a serious budget gap, which will necessitate a careful examination of how we maintain a quality educational experience at our four campuses.”

Board of Curators appointments

HB 174, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson, was signed into law by Governor Nixon on May 2. It modifies the selection process of the UM Board of Curators to allow for at least one, but no more than two Curators to be represented from each Congressional district. This statute change was needed to reflect the loss of one of the nine Congressional districts. Previously, only one Curator could serve per Congressional district.

SB 163, sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was given final approval on May 5. This language is identical to HB 174. The bill is currently waiting for Governor Nixon’s signature.

Higher education-related legislation that did not pass

Bonding

HJR 9, sponsored by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), would have allowed bonding for higher education institutions. The bill was referred to the Higher Education committee in the House, where it received a hearing on March 29.

SB 200, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), would have modified the ability of higher education institutions to issue bonds and incur debt. The bill could possibly limit an institution’s ability to bond for capital improvements. The bill was on the informal Senate Perfection calendar.

Research Grants

SB 268, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), increased the statutory award amount for Alzheimer’s research grants from $30,000 to $50,000. This budget line item was removed from the UM-Related section of HB 3. The legislation would increase the award limit in the event that the line is restored. It passed the Senate and was referred to the Higher Education committee on April 26.  HB 682, sponsored by Rep. Margo McNeil (D-Florissant) is the companion bill in the House and a committee hearing was held on March 29. This language was also added to HB 579, and this bill passed the House, but the Senate committee did not vote on the bill.

HB 755, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Leach (R-Springfield), subjected the spinal cord injury fund, the appropriation for which is contained in the UM-Related section of HB 3, to the provisions of 196.1127. This section prohibits any public funds from being used for any life sciences research involving human cloning and stem cell research. The bill was heard in committee on March 16th.

STEM

SB 164, sponsored by Senator David Pearce, and HB 352, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Wallingford both create a science, technology, engineering and math initiative within the Department of Higher Education to provide matching funds for University or private dollars to enhance scholarships, experiential camps, endowed professorships or other projects to expand participation in the science fields.  Both bills were heard in their respective education committees.

HB 867, sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), would establish the “Missouri Biosciences Eminent Scholars Program” within the University of Missouri to provide grants to attract scholars in the bioscience fields. The bill was referred to the Higher Education committee.

Board of Curators

While HB 174 and SB 163 passed, there were other bills filed relating to the composition to the Board of Curators that did not receive approval by the General Assembly. HB 243, HB 848, and HB 494 all related to encouraging  selection of a student to the Board or in some cases, mandating that the student representative to the Board of Curators have a vote. These bills were heard in the Higher Education committee April 5.

Other non-higher education legislation passed

HB 193, sponsored by Rep. John Diehl, established the Congressional redistricting lines of Missouri. Due to the 2010 Census, Missouri is to lose one of its nine Congressional districts. This bill was vetoed by Governor Nixon. The General Assembly overrode his veto by achieving the Constitutionally required 2/3 vote in both chambers. The map can be found here.

SB 113, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), modified the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act passed by voters in November 2010. This bill increased the required licensing fees, removed provisions that limited breeders to having more than 50 dogs, and changes the penalty provisions of the Act.

SB 19, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), phases out the corporate franchise tax for businesses over a five-year period. The tax will be completely phased out by 2016.

SJR 2, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), places on the ballot an initiative that would allow for advance voting and require a government-issued photo identification. This will be placed on the November 2012 ballot. The enabling legislation, SB 3, was given final approval by the Senate May 10.

Senate confirms Don Cupps to the Board of Curators

The Senate confirmed Don Cupps as the newest member to the Board of Curators. Cupps will begin serving on the Board of Curators immediately and will be replacing John Carnahan to represent the 7th Congressional district.

From left: Senator Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon), Curator Don Cupps, and his wife, Mary Cupps,  at his confirmation hearing on May 4.

Joint Committee on Education elects new leadership

The Joint House-Senate Committee on Education met Tuesday, May 10 to review plans for the coming year and elect new leadership.  Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, was elected chairman of the 14-member panel. Senator David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, was elected vice chairman.  The committee reviews and monitors education issues at the pre-K, elementary, secondary and higher education levels and gathers input on key issues to make recommendations to the General Assembly for legislative action.

Other members of the committee include Senators Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), Maria Chappelle-Nadal, (D-St. Louis), Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis), Brian Nieves (R-Washington), Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), and Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia). Other House members include Reps. Rodney Schad (R-Versailles), Joe Aull (D-Marshall), Ira Anders (D-Independence), Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington), Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City), and Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe).

ASUM awards their Legislators of the Year

The Associated Students of the University of Missouri recognized Rep. Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi) and Rep. Ray Weter (R-Nixa) as Legislators of the Year for their partnership and committment to working on higher education and the ASUM legislative priorities.

Above from left to right: Incoming ASUM Legislative Director, UMKC senior Corbin Evans, Rep. Ray Weter, and ASUM incoming Board Chair, MU senior Blake Gooding.

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