Higher education appropriations bill advances
The House Appropriations–Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), took amendments and voted out its version of the higher education appropriations bill, HB2003 , on Feb 23. The committee maintained the agreement between public institutions and the governor for a 5.2 percent reduction to institutions’ core operating budgets in exchange for no tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students. The committee also approved two amendments to UM-related budget items, adding $1 million to MOREnet’s budget and $300,000 to the budget of the Missouri Kidney Program.
All other appropriations subcommittees reported their recommendations this week as well, with an estimated $700 million in program cuts recommended. While the consensus was a reluctance to propose such cuts, the committee also acknowledged the difficult budget situation for FY11 and the need for leaner budgets.
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering announced Feb. 25 that revenue collections for February were worse than expected. The percentage decrease is expected to be greater than the 22 percent reported for January, though final February numbers should be available within the week. The governor’s proposed budget was based on an expected $300 million in additional federal dollars, the receipt of which is now in question. All appropriations bills will be reviewed and modified by the House Budget Committee beginning next week.
Access Missouri proposals moving in both Senate and House
Bills that would equalize Access Missouri scholarship award levels for students at four-year public and private institutions continue to work through the legislative process. SB784 , sponsored by Sens. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was passed Feb. 24 by the Senate Education Committee by a 6-3 vote. In the House, HB1812 , sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) is scheduled for a hearing before the House Higher Education Committee at 8 a.m. March 2.
Currently, students who qualify for the need-based scholarship and attend a private institution can receive up to $4,600 per year. Students who choose a public institution can receive up to $2,150, and community college students can receive $1,000. Both bills would leave current levels in place for four more years, then would adjust awards beginning in the 2014-2015 school year so that all four-year students received up to $2,850 and community college students received up to $1,250.
The Council on Public Higher Education, representing the University of Missouri System and all public four-year institutions in the state, has testified in support of the changes. Representatives of the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Legislative Network, Mizzou Parents Association and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri have also testified in support.
House Higher Education Committee passes two financial aid bills
Access Missouri recipients and military veterans would be impacted by two bills adopted by the House Higher Education Committee during an executive session Feb. 23. HB1473 , sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) would change the GPA required for renewal of Access Missouri scholarships for the freshman and sophomore years from a 2.5 to a 2.0. The University of Missouri was among several public institutions supporting the change, which would help students who struggle in the first few semesters and lose the scholarship. Last year, more than 600 Access recipients at University of Missouri campuses lost their award because they earned a GPA below 2.5 but above 2.0.
The committee also adopted HB1504 , sponsored by Rep. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) that extends the Missouri Returning Heroes tuition waiver for combat veterans at public institutions to include those who served prior to Sept. 11, 2001. Participants would still have to enroll in a higher education institution within 10 years of being discharged.
Lawmakers hear legislation, honor international students during International Student Day
David Currey, left, director of international programs at MU, testifies before the Senate Rules Committee Feb. 23 in support of SCR31 , sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (right), (R-Warrensburg).
Hundreds of international college students from the University of Missouri System and other institutions across the state came to Jefferson City Feb. 24 to celebrate the value of the international experience in higher education. Students were introduced in the House and Senate and met with lawmakers to encourage support for higher education.
The senate also took up and passed SCR31  sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) that encourages colleges and universities to promote the importance and value of international students and educational experiences. David Currey of MU’s International Center brought students to testify in support of the resolution during a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee Feb. 23. A similar resolution, HCR24 , has been introduced in the House and will be heard March 2 before the House Higher Education Committee.
Senate committee advances bill aimed at attracting science and innovation companies
The Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee passed an omnibus economic development bill that includes SB895 , the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Peters). The MOSIRA bill would foster new science and innovation companies and devote a percentage of income taxes from life science industry employees to a fund to be used to attract high technology and high wage jobs to Missouri.
The committee substitute includes SB808 , SB813 , SB911 , SB922 , SB924  and SB 895 , and was passed by a 7-1 committee vote. It is now slated for discussion on the senate floor.
Legislators recognize accomplishments of MU athletes
The Mizzou women’s softball team, women’s soccer team and a member of the wrestling team were recognized this week before the House and Senate for their accomplishments in recent seasons.
The Mizzou softball team won the Big 12 Championship in 2009, made a trip to the College Softball World Series, and was crowned NCAA regional and super regional champions. The Mizzou soccer team also won the Big 12 Conference Championship, and coach Bryan Blitz was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. MU wrestler Mark Ellis, a senior from Peculiar, Mo., won a national championship in the heavyweight class in 2009.
The Mizzou softball team with Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) during a visit to the Capitol Feb. 22. For more photos, click here .
Physical therapy students visit Capitol
Physical therapy students from colleges and universities across the state visited Jefferson City Feb. 24 to encourage support for physical therapy education. Pictured is a group from the University of Missouri-Columbia who came to advocate in support of the university.
Legislative Day March 2
Don’t forget to join friends, alumni and supporters of the University of Missouri for the 36th annual Legislative Day  March 2 featuring University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee and Gov. Jay Nixon.
The Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension will host its annual awards dinner at the DoubleTree Hotel in Jefferson City March 1. Honorees for outstanding alumni service include Gov. Jay Nixon; Sen. David Pearce; Cameron Lindsay from UMKC; Chris Nicastro from UMSL; Delbert Day from Missouri S&T; and Jim Snider.
New record set for candidate filing
The state of Missouri has set a new record for political candidates filing for office within a 24-hour period. At the end of Feb. 23, 417 candidates  had filed to run in the August 2010 primary elections.
The most crowded list of candidates was for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Kit Bond. Nine Republicans, two Democrats, two Constitution Party candidates and one Libertarian had filed by the end of the day, bringing the total to 14 in that race.
Most candidates file on the first day in hopes of drawing a low lottery number, which determines their place on the ballot. Filing remains open until March 30.
Agriculture leaders visit with Missouri delegation on the Hill
MU representatives from the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, & Teaching (CARET) came to Capitol Hill this week to visit with members of the Missouri Congressional delegation about federal agriculture funding for FY2011. Attendees included representatives from MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Nutrition and Forestry; and MU Extension. The group’s message about the significant impact MU has on Missouri’s agriculture and statewide economy was well received by the delegation.
Jobs, transportation, health care dominate federal discussions
The senate voted 70-28 this week to pass H.R. 2847, a $15 billion package that would give payroll tax relief for businesses that hire unemployed workers. The measure also would extend the Highway Trust Fund, the Build America bond program, and expense deductions for small businesses. The House passed a more expansive $154 billion measure in December 2009. The senate is already working on a second jobs package, which is expected to include one-year extensions of dozens of tax credits and also likely to include yearlong extensions of unemployment benefits, health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers and a six-month extension of additional Medicaid assistance to states. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Congressional leaders met at the White House with key administration officials to review the status of proposals to overhaul the nation’s health care system.