March 28, 2014

State Issues

Senate approves facility renovation bill

The Senate gave first round approval to SB 723, sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), on March 27. The bill would raise the cap on the amount of revenue bonds that may be issued by the state Board of Public Buildings. Under current law, the Board may only issue bonds up to $170 million for projects at public institutions of higher education. This bill increases the cap to $370 million and requires that the bonds only be used for repair or renovation of existing buildings and facilities. Senator Parson indicated that a list with specific projects will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Budget moves to the Senate

On March 25, the House of Representatives perfected the FY 2015 appropriations bills, sponsored by House Budget chair Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood).  Only a few minor changes were made to the higher education funding bill, HB 2003.  An amendment offered by Representative John Diehl (R-Town and Country) removed University of Missouri-related line item appropriations in the amount of $500,000 for the Missouri College Advising Corps and $500,000 for the UMKC Centers for Neighborhood Initiative and reallocated those amounts to a program that helps low income individuals pay for utility bills. In addition, Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) amended the bill to add $175,000 in one-time funds to the Northwest Missouri State University line to replace equipment as part of the campus recycling program.

The House took a final vote on the bills on March 27 and they were first read in the Senate the same day.  The Senate Appropriations committee is expected to begin consideration of the budget next week.

Senate perfects major tax overhaul bill

After several weeks of negotiation, the Senate perfected a revised version of tax reform on March 26. Senate Bill 509, sponsored by Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), would phase in a half-percent decrease in personal income tax rates starting with a tenth of a percent cut in 2017 and additional tenth of a percent cut annually over five years.  During that same period, the bill would phase in a 25 percent deduction of business income that can be reported on individual tax returns. All of the changes would be contingent on General Revenue growing by $150 million over the highest level of the previous three years.

The bill does not include any references to tax credit reform or fully funding the foundation formula for elementary and secondary education, as proposed in the agreement Kraus announced with Governor Nixon earlier in the session.  A fiscal analysis of the bill indicates a cost to the state of nearly $500 million once the plan is fully phased in.  The bill needs a final Senate  vote before being sent to the House, where different tax cut plans have been debated.

Governor Nixon issued a statement on March 27 noting that until lawmakers take steps to curb tax credit spending, he considers discussion of tax cuts a “nonstarter.”

House approves scholarship plan for agriculture students

A comprehensive bill that would create a new dairy margin insurance program and create a forgivable loan scholarship for college students studying agriculture was approved this week by the Missouri House. House Bill 1326, sponsored by Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), would create up to eighty $5,000 loans for students at two- and four-year institutions who are majoring in agriculture and who intern in agriculture-related jobs in the dairy industry.  The loans would be forgiven if students remain in the state after graduation and work in an agriculture-related field.

The bill also provides the opportunity for additional funding for the Commercial Agriculture Program, operated through University of Missouri Extension and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Legislator Profile: Representative Donna Lichtenegger

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Representative Lichtenegger in her Capitol office.

Representative Donna Lichtenegger’s desire to improve the state of Missouri began at a young age and continues to motivate her actions as a State Representative for the 146th district. After participating in politics for many years, Lichtenegger seized the opportunity to represent Cape Girardeau at the state level.

Lichtenegger’s passion revolves around health care and higher education. After working in the dental field for 37 years, Lichtenegger formed a caucus for oral health issues to increase legislators’ understanding of oral health care issues. Lichtenegger serves on the House Higher Education committee and became close to the University of Missouri System when her husband, John Lichtenegger, served on the Board of Curators for ten years. She reflects fondly on her opportunity to experience the “ins and outs of all four University of Missouri System campuses, as well as Extension.”

Representative Lichtenegger believes in higher education because of the opportunities it opens for Missouri’s citizens. Currently, the state legislature is working to make higher education more affordable and to increase funding for Bright Flight scholarships. Lichtenegger explains, “giving [Bright Flight scholars] an avenue to get their loans paid back because of their status as the brightest and best” will encourage them to stay within the state of Missouri. Having successful students remain within the state of Missouri will improve economic development. She notes, “Our whole university system in our state really does have a bright future. We try to get the best and the brightest professors, which is good for our students.”

“I have a great passion for higher education. You are never too young or too old to learn. Education is good for us and we need to stress that, because you can’t move ahead without it.”

Federal Issues

MU Chancellor Loftin visits Congressional delegation, students in DC

University of Missouri Chancellor Bowen Loftin met with the entire Missouri congressional delegation this week in Washington D.C. Chancellor Loftin also met with Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), who are MU alumni.

In addition to the Congressional visits, Chancellor Loftin met with two MU journalism students, attended an“SEC in DC” event with student government leaders from the SEC universities, and spent time with the two Mizzou Alternative Spring Break groups serving in Washington D.C.

For more photos of Chancellor Loftin’s visit to Washington, click here.

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Above: Chancellor Loftin with Congressman Lacy Clay (D-MO).

Congressman Jason Smith speaks to student veterans at Missouri S&T

On March 20, Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) was the keynote speaker at a luncheon sponsored by the Missouri S&T Student Veteran Association. Approximately thirty student veterans attended and Congressman Smith provided opening remarks and then answered questions from veterans.

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Congressman Jason Smith with Missouri S&T student veterans on March 20.

MU Students visit nation’s Capital for SEC in DC Conference

MU student leaders visited Washington D.C. for an SEC in DC conference with student leaders from the universities in the Southeastern Conference. Missouri Students Association (MSA) President Mason Schara, MSA Legislative Advocacy Officer Camille Hosman, and MSA Senator Payton Head met with the Missouri congressional delegation, staff from the Office of the Vice President, and staff from the education committees during their visit.

MU Students in DC

Above from left: Mason Schara, Camille Hosman, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Payton Head.

Senator McCaskill hosts town halls on UMKC, Missouri S&T campuses

Two UM System campuses hosted Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) town hall meetings during her “McCaskill on Main Street” tour. Missouri S&T hosted Sen. McCaskill on March 18, and UMKC hosted the event on March 19.  At the UMKC Student Union, Senator McCaskill provided introductory remarks and took questions from the audience about topics such as health care, education, immigration, and the arts in Kansas City. At Missouri S&T’s Havener Center, Senator McCaskill’s questions revolved around the military, education, and transportation.

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Above: Sen. McCaskill after the UMKC town hall meeting. Photo courtesy of Janet Rogers.

Senator Roy Blunt becomes Honorary Knight of St. Patrick at Missouri S&T

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) was recognized on March 14 as one of the 2014 Honorary Knights of St. Patrick. Senator Blunt was one of eight individuals given the honor this year. Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and State Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla) served as Senator Blunt’s hosts for the event. To see the official announcement of the 2014 Honorary Knights, click here, and to see other photos from the weekend’s festivities, click here.

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Above: Sen. Roy Blunt and Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader at the Honorary Knights Banquet.

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