Jan. 21, 2011

Governor Gives State of the State Address

Governor Jay Nixon addressed a joint session of the General Assembly on January 19 to give his annual State of the State address.  He outlined a number of priorities for the year, primarily focusing on jobs and economic development. 

For the FY 2012 higher education budget, the Governor recommended a 7% decrease to the core budgets of public two-year and four-year institutions.  The University of Missouri would receive $398 million if the legislature adheres to the Governor’s recommendation.  His budget plan also includes funding equal to last year’s for the Missouri Kidney Program, Missouri Rehabilitation Center, and the State Historical Society.  The Telehealth budget would decrease under his recommendations. The University of Missouri has sent a Press Release regarding Governor Nixon’s budgetary recommendations.

The Governor also recommended discontinuing funding for three University-related items: MOREnet, the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, and University Hospitals and Clinics.  In the case of the hospital’s funding, the line item in the higher education budget will no longer be necessary, as the Department of Social Services will now pay the state share of the hospital’s Medicaid claims. Legislators will now begin reviewing and revising the budget. The final budget must be passed by May 6th.

Governor Nixon’s budget recommendations can be found here.

Governor proposes expansion of A+ scholarship program, continued funding for Bright Flight and Access Missouri

Governor Nixon outlined several funding initiatives related to the state’s financial aid programs as part of his State of the State address Wednesday.  The A+ program, which provides tuition scholarships for students graduating from an approved high school and continuing at a two-year public or approved private institution, would receive an increase of $8 million targeted to expanding the program to the neediest students regardless of whether their school is approved to qualify for the A+ program.

Nixon also suggested a new Advanced Placement scholarship of $500 for students completing a math and science course and receiving an A+ or Access Missouri scholarship. Legislation has been introduced to authorize such an appropriation.

The Governor also vowed to continue funding for Bright Flight and Access Missouri at levels about equal to or slightly above this year’s appropriated amount.

Education committees begin to meet

 The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator David Pearce, (R-Warrensburg) will hold its first meeting January 26th to take up an elementary and secondary education bill. Pearce’s committee is expected to handle most higher education related legislation that comes through the upper chamber.

The House Higher Education Committee, Chaired by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) held an organizational session this week to introduce members. The Committee is expected to begin hearing bills in early February.

Higher education bills filed

Recently introduced higher education bills of note focus on such topics as the appointment of curators, bonding for capital improvements, expanding scholarships for the A+ program and for students passing advanced placement high school courses in science and math, and funding for nursing programs.

HB 174, HB 243, and HB 244 all relate to selection of the Board of Curators in light of the state’s impending loss of one congressional district. Since the state will drop from nine to eight districts, and since the Constitution requires that there be nine members of the Board of Curators, one district will have to have more than one appointment. Currently statutes call for no more than one appointment from each congressional district. These bills each address the problem by allowing for more than one curator per district in the case of HB 174 and HB 244, and making one of the members a voting student in the case of HB 243.

HJR 9 places on the ballot an $800 million bonding plan to support higher education and other state facilities. The resolution is identical to one introduced last year.

Two bills provide for additional scholarships for students in the state’s A+ program. HB 231 would authorize a $500 scholarship for students who pass advance placement math and science courses and who are also eligible to receive the A+ or Access Missouri awards. HB 232 would provide for a needs-based A+ award for students regardless of whether their high school is designated as an A+ school. Currently, only students who graduate from a designated school are eligible to receive the tuition scholarship to attend public community colleges in the state.

HB 223 authorizes an appropriation of funds through the Caring for Missourians program for additional nursing support. It allows funding provided by nursing organizations in the state to be allocated to the state’s nursing schools to help alleviate the current nursing shortage.

To connect to bill status pages for the House, go here, and for the Senate, go here.

Senate working groups provide recommendations for rebooting government

A series of Senate working groups tasked with taking public recommendations for streamlining government and increasing efficiencies completed their work and presented suggestions to Senate President Pro-Tem Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) this week.  Recommendations related to higher education included combining the State Board of Education with the State Coordinating Board for Higher Education, a proposal that was debated last year in the Senate.  The Education work group also supported efforts already under way in higher education to review academic programs and look for opportunities to consolidate and streamline. This process was started last fall as part of a set of initiatives outlined by Governor Jay Nixon.

To see the complete list of recommendations from all of the work groups, go to the website here.

Federal Relations Update

The United States House of Representatives has announced official committee assignments. Assignments for the Missouri delegation include:
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-1): Financial Services; Oversight & Government Reform
Rep. Todd Akin (R-2): Armed Services; Budget
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-3): Foreign Affairs; Transportation & Infrastructure
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-4): Agriculture; Armed Services
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-5): Financial Services
Rep. Sam Graves (R-6): Small Business (Chair); Transportation & Infrastructure
Rep. Billy Long (R-7): Homeland Security; Transportation & Infrastructure
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-8): Appropriations
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-9): Financial Services

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