April 2, 2010

State relations

Fiscal Year 2011 budget bills move to Senate

The Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), has begun reviewing and amending the Fiscal Year 2011 budget bills. The committee considered HB2003, the higher education appropriation bill, with many sections remaining “open” for further consideration. A conference committee composed of select House and Senate members will ultimately negotiate any changes made between the House and Senate versions of the bills.

No final decisions were made on any of the two-year or four-year institutions’ core budgets; however, the committee intends to reduce funding by an additional $14 million, proportionate among all institutions. Since the state has elected to use federal stabilization funds to supplement general revenue in the higher education budget, it is required to remain within certain parameters and is prohibited from a reduction greater than $14 million. The result would be a reduction in funding to higher education institutions of approximately seven percent. Should the conference committee decide to adopt the additional reductions, the agreement with the governor for a 5.2 percent reduction in exchange for no tuition increase for in-state, undergraduate students would no longer be applicable and institutions could raise tuition.

The committee also decided to leave university-related categories, including Telehealth and MOREnet, open for further discussion. In addition, the committee decided not to retain the $2 million added by the House for a joint University of Missouri-Kansas City/Missouri State University pharmacy program.

Finally, the committee removed $7.5 million added by the House for Bright Flight scholarships and $6.5 million from the Access Missouri scholarship fund, bringing the total House and Senate reduction for Access Missouri to $13 million.

All FY11 appropriations bills must be passed by May 7.

Senate passes bill to clarify Bright Flight scholarship allocations

The Senate passed a bill supported by the University of Missouri System this week that clarifies how Bright Flight scholarships will be allocated as part of an expanded award structure. SB733, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), specifies students who score in the top three percent of test takers have priority-eligibility for up to $3,000 in awards. If additional funds are available, a smaller award of $1,000 would be allocated to students who score in the fourth and fifth percentile of test takers.

Bright Flight, the state’s merit-based scholarship plan, will be expanded in the coming year as part of SB389, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2007. The plan increased the award from $2,000 to $3,000 for the top tier of students and expanded the award to include those in the fourth and fifth percentiles at the $1,000 level. Without sufficient funding to cover all eligible students, however, the Department of Higher Education was faced with a dilemma of how to allocate the dollars.

In committee, UM officials testified in support of the legislation and argued that the intent of Bright Flight has always been to encourage the best and brightest students to stay in Missouri for their postsecondary education. The bill also clarifies the language expanding the program. It now moves to the House for consideration.

House, Senate sponsors align legislation designed to equalize Access Missouri scholarships

Now that key institution leaders in public and private higher education have agreed to an equalized award structure for the Access Missouri needs-based scholarship program, Senate and House sponsors are modifying their respective bills to reflect recent discussions.

SB784, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), and HB1812, sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), are expected to be updated and move through the respective chambers in similar format. The bills will include language to equalize the awards for four-year students at public and private institutions at a maximum of $2,850. Students at two-year institutions could receive awards up to $1,300. Currently, private students can receive up to $4,600, while public four-year students are limited to $2,150 and public two-year students are limited to $1,000.

The modified legislation includes a start date of 2014, so current students are not affected. It also removes sunset language that created uncertainty in earlier versions of the bill.

Governor names MU graduate to Coordinating Board for Higher Education

Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Gary Sharpe of Jefferson City to serve as the 4th Congressional District representative to the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education. Sharpe, who earned a doctorate in education from MU in 1968, served in the state legislature for several years and chaired the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education. He has also served as a teacher, administrator and lobbyist for several public school organizations. He was executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators for nearly 20 years.

The appointment must be confirmed by the Senate. Confirmation is expected the week of April 5.

Candidate Filing Closes

Candidates filing for elected office had until 5 p.m. March 30 to qualify for the August 2010 primary election, to be held Aug. 3. Two open congressional seats will garner the most attention: U. S. Sen. Kit Bond’s (R) open seat and U. S. Rep. Roy Blunt’s (R) 7th District seat.

Twenty candidates have filed for the Senate seat and 70 candidates have filed for the 7th Congressional District seat. A total of 464 candidates have filed for the 10 open state Senate seats and 55 open state House seats.

To see a complete list of candidates, please visit the secretary of state’s Web site.

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