**Because no Legislative Update was published last week due to inclement weather, this week’s Legislative Update includes news from both this week and last week.**
Bonding plan makes progress
Resolutions to place a bonding package on the statewide ballot to support higher education capital improvements are making progress in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.
This week, the Senate Appropriations committee held a hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 3, which is the Senate version of the bonding proposal. The resolution is sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and is currently identical to the House’s version of the measure, House Joint Resolution 14. The committee voted unanimously to support the plan on February 27.
Among those testifying in support of SJR 3 were the Council on Public Higher Education, the University of Missouri System, MU Alumni Association Legislative Network, Mizzou Flagship Council, Associated Students of the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Students Association.
In the House, the Appropriations – Infrastructure and Job Creation committee held a work session on February 26 to discuss HJR 14, sponsored by Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R-Eureka). The committee reviewed the capital needs of Fulton State Hospital, state parks, higher education institutions, and the state Capitol building.
Last week, Speaker Jones and UM System President Tim Wolfe were interviewed on the Tiger Network as the Mizzou men’s basketball team broke for halftime during their game against the University of Florida. The two discussed Jones’s proposed bonding plan, HJR 14, which would help fund higher education capital projects across the state. The University of Missouri System has a $1.3 billion backlog of capital needs and the President stressed the importance of partnering with the state to fund some of UM’s priority projects. Speaker Jones also posted a video on his blog affirming his support for the proposed bonding plan.
President Wolfe testifies as budget bills move forward
The Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), heard testimony from higher education institutions on February 19. In his comments, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe discussed the positive impact higher education has on the state, from promoting economic development to producing graduates in high demand fields such as science and engineering. The committee then reviewed the proposed FY14 budget for the Department of Higher Education. To see President Wolfe’s comments to the Appropriations committee, click here.
Senate bill introduced to create higher education funding formula
On the last day to file new bills in the Senate, Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) introduced Senate Bill 437, which creates a new funding formula model for higher education institutions. The legislation is based on formula proposals that have been developed by the Joint Committee on Education over the past several months. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation requiring the committee to develop a funding formula model to instruct how the legislature should allocate future revenues.
The bill will now begin to move through the legislative process with the goal of passing a revised formula in time for the next legislative session and consideration of FY15 appropriations.
Extension districting proposals receive votes in Senate, House
Two companion bills to allow MU Extension to form single- or multi-county districts continue to move through the legislative process. Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was third read and passed by the Senate on February 18 by a 23-7 vote. The bill has now been reported to the House and will await committee consideration.
In the House, House Bill 202, sponsored by Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho), was passed by the House by a 133-18 vote on February 26. The bill has now been reported to the Senate and will await committee consideration.
The bills would enable Extension councils in counties across the state to have the option of forming funding districts to better coordinate program delivery at the local level. They would also give the districts the option of placing local property tax questions on the ballot to support local programming. The Senate bill includes an amendment to exclude St. Louis County from the option while the House bill includes all counties of the state.
Missouri S&T hosts regional robot competition
The Rolla High School “Patriots” were one of 36 teams of Missouri and Illinois high schoolers to design and build robots for the Statewide FIRST Tech Challenge, held February 23 on the Missouri S&T campus. The Patriots won the competition and a chance to compete in the international competition to be held in April in St. Louis. This marks the third year Missouri S&T has hosted the regional competition.
4-H leadership group attends conference in Jefferson City, meets with lawmakers
More than a dozen high school and college students involved in the 4-H Youth Leadership Academy went to Jefferson City last week to meet and shadow legislators and attend hearings and floor sessions. On Monday evening, the students had dinner with lawmakers and exchanged ideas related to legislation and education. The 4-H program is one of many youth development programs operated as part of MU Extension.
Sequestration takes effect, cuts to federal programs expected
Mandatory across-the-board cuts to federal programs took effect on March 1. The cuts, otherwise known as sequestration, were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. They amount to approximately a 4.6 percent cut to non-defense discretionary programs and a 9.2 percent cut to defense programs for FY13, which extends through September 30.
The Office of Management and Budget is expected to send a notice to agencies ordering these mandatory budget reductions. Some federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have already announced how they plan to apply the cuts made to their budgets. The NIH announcement can be found here, and the NSF announcement can be found here.
President Wolfe visits Capitol Hill
UM System President Tim Wolfe met with members of the Missouri congressional delegation on February 27 and 28 in Washington, DC. The effects of sequestration on UM, the federal budget, health care, and agriculture were among the issues President Wolfe discussed with Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Reps. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Sam Graves (R-MO), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Billy Long (R-MO), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), and Ann Wagner (R-MO).
UM System President Tim Wolfe (left) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) (right).
Senator Blunt honors Dr. Fred Hawthorne, discusses MU defense research
On February 19, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and UM System President Tim Wolfe honored Dr. Fred Hawthorne for receiving the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama. Senator Blunt also recognized Dr. Hawthorne in the Congressional Record. Click here to read Sen. Blunt’s comments. Dr. Hawthorne, Director of the International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine, is the first University of Missouri faculty member to be given this honor, and he was one of only 22 scientists across the nation to be given the award.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler hosts Agriculture Council on MU campus, tours agriculture labs
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) hosted an Agriculture Council meeting with constituents from the 4th Congressional District at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center on February 19. While on the MU campus, Congresswoman Hartzler and her Council heard presentations on MU agriculture research and toured two laboratories.