May 21, 2012

2012 legislative session concludes, 50/50 Capital funding match bill passes

The Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly came to a close at 6pm, Friday, May 18, after a week that included passage of several higher education bills. A highlight was the passage of legislation creating a capital improvement matching fund. Provisions that were originally contained in SB 655, sponsored by Sen. Tim Green (D-St. Louis), were truly agreed to and finally passed on May 16 as part of an omnibus higher education bill.  Senate Bill 563, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), was amended with various higher education provisions in the House, with which the Senate concurred.  The provisions included in the bill from SB 655 will create a higher education capital fund in which the state may appropriate up to 50 percent of the cost of a capital project when a higher education institution raises 50 percent of the cost through private means.

The initiative was a high priority for the University of Missouri as a tool to help campuses raise private support for future building needs.

Omnibus higher education bills include STEM, other initiatives

The General Assembly passed several omnibus higher education bills in the final days of the legislative session, including a plan to establish a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative in the Department of Higher Education.

The STEM initiative was the idea of the University of Missouri System and was introduced in the past two legislative sessions as a way to encourage more students pursue STEM fields. It was passed as part of SB 563, but was also introduced as a stand alone bill by Rep. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau). Under the plan, the state could provide matching funds for endowed teaching professorships, scholarships, experiential youth programs for elementary, middle and high school students, and career enhancement programs for STEM teachers.

SB 563, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) is an omnibus bill that also included an authorization for statutory increases in the grant levels for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program administered by UM; a new certification level for students going into school social work that was supported by UM; the license plate fix to keep the University of Kansas from offering Missouri collegiate plates; the 50-50 state capital match program for higher education capital improvements; and a new program in the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Center operated by MU Extension to develop a virtual network for entrepreneurs.

Lawmakers also sent the Governor HB 1042, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) that calls on public institutions to develop a library of 25 lower division courses that would transfer among colleges and universities. It also calls for improvements in remedial education programs and development of reverse transfer guidelines. A similar bill was filed in the Senate by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg).

Extension districting option legislation thwarted in Senate

The University’s plans to provide MU Extension with statutory authority to create single- or multi-county funding districts was stalled in the Senate after two term-limited Senators raised concerns about the proposal and threatened to block any legislation that included the plan. Sen. Tim Green (D-St. Louis) and Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau) engaged in a discussion on the Senate floor earlier this month on an amendment by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) to include the plan in a larger bill under consideration.

The proposal had received widespread support in the House of Representatives as part of two larger agriculture-related bills, and received unanimous support from the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier in the session.  University and Extension leaders plan to return next session with the legislation.

The bill is designed to give counties the option of forming districts to gain resources to provide local Extension programming across county lines, and would also enable them to place property tax levies on the local ballot to support Extension efforts.  The plan is modeled after similar versions in place in 26 other states.

The original bills filed this year to provide the authority are SB 865, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), and HB 1895, sponsored by Rep. Tom Loehner (R-Koeltztown).

Lawmakers quickly pass bill to prohibit Missouri collegiate license plates for out of state institutions.

When word came to the Capitol that a University of Kansas alumni organization was working through the administrative process to sell KU Jayhawk-themed Missouri collegiate license plates, lawmakers sprang into action and drafted language to prohibit the plates in Missouri. The language was incorporated by Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia)  into a larger omnibus higher education bill, SB 563, that passed the Senate and House with no dissenting votes.  Sens. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Bill Stouffer (R-Napton) led the charge to develop and approve the language in the Senate. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk.

Previously, any group could go through an administrative process to develop and offer the plates without approval of the House and Senate. The new language would require legislative approval in the case of any collegiate-themed plates. It also requires that the legislature approve the plate proposal in the same legislative year that a group applies for the plates, which would make it impossible for the KU plates to be authorized this year.

Lawmakers send Governor charter school legislation that includes UM priorities

After several years of development, lawmakers approved legislation to expand charter schools in Missouri and improve oversight and accountability for the schools.  SB 576, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), includes many provisions designed to address growing problems with education, particularly in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

Charter schools have been allowed in St. Louis and Kansas City to provide an alternative to failing public schools and bring together education provider organizations, sponsoring public universities which are typically colleges of education, and a local board of parents and community leaders to provide publicly-funded elementary and secondary education.  The new legislation allows charter schools to be established in any unaccredited school district in the state and expands who may sponsor the schools to include local school boards, special administrative boards established by the state Board of Education, community colleges, and the Missouri Charter Public School Commission which is created in the bill.

The University of Missouri System’s campuses in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Rolla have been sponsors of charter schools in their respective cities.  Several of these schools have been successful, but others have experienced challenges that have led to the University revoking charters and facing legal issues with the outside education providers. The new legislation clarifies responsibilities of both sponsors and education providers, and protects sponsors from legal challenges from outside providers in situations where charters are revoked.  

Administrators who oversee charter school operations for UM campuses have been engaged in the development of many of the provisions of SB 576 and supported the legislation as it moved through the process.

Congressman Graves speaks at CAFNR graduation

Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO) was the featured speaker at the MU School of Natural Resources and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) graduation ceremony on May 12th. CAFNR graduated 378 students during the ceremony. Congressman Graves is an alumnus of the college, with degree in Agronomy.

Above: Congressman Graves during his commencement speech to MU’s CAFNR graduates. Photo is courtesy of Grad Images.

May 11, 2012

Level funding approved for higher education in FY2013

The General Assembly has approved FY13 funding for higher education institutions at their FY12 levels. After a week of negotiations, the conference committee charged with reconciling House and Senate differences in the FY13 budget submitted their recommendations for approval on May 10th.  The truly agreed to and finally passed bills will be sent to the Governor, who could agree with the recommendations, but who also has the authority to line item veto specific budget recommendations. 

The conference committee, co-chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Rep. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), worked to maintain funding at FY12 levels, which for the University of Missouri System is $398,200,626.  At the request of certain legislators, the committee also added language to the UM operating budget line which prohibits the use of state funds for any political activity or for the support of a Quality Rating System.

After the Senate disagreed on a House position that added $2 million for Southeast Missouri State University, a compromise position was reached.  The committee agreed to distribute $3 million among most of the four-year institutions for equity funding.  The University of Missouri System and Missouri State University did not receive this increase as, according to the conference committee co-chairs, these institutions have unique statewide missions and receive state funding for other purposes in addition to their operating budget appropriations. 

The UM-Related programs, which include Telehealth, the Missouri Kidney Program, and Missouri Rehabilitation Center, will also receive funding equivalent to their FY 12 levels. The State Historical Society received an increase of $200,000 to compensate them for assuming responsibility for the state manuscript collection.  The Spinal Cord Injury Fund will receive increased spending authority of $1.5 million, which will enable more adequate funding of spinal cord research projects.  The joint UMKC and Missouri State Pharmacy Doctorate program will receive $2 million and $1 million was appropriated for competitive grants to nursing schools.  Finally, the Missouri Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, or MoFAST, will receive $340,000 in a new line item under the UM-Related category.

The Governor has until June 30th to sign the appropriations bills. 

Sue Shear Institute language debated

This week, the FY13 budget debate included a large amount of discussion about the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. During the debate of HB2003, the higher education funding bill, some legislators expressed concern about the allocation of state funding to the Institute.  To prohibit funding, the Senate Veterans Affairs committee place prohibitive language in HB 1731, which primarily related to the funding of veterans homes through gaming moneys. The bill was considered crucial to the passage of a balanced state budget and, had passage been prevented, the Appropriations conference committee would have been forced to make a number of additional cuts.

The language of the senate committee substitute to HB1731 prohibited the funding of the Sue Shear Institute by virtually any public or private entity. However, the language went much further to prohibit any other institute “engaging in political activity” from increasing the presence of women on boards and commissions or training college women leaders, among other activities. The language also created a legal cause of action against anyone violating the provisions.  To read the actual language of the senate committee substitute to HB 1731, click here and read Section 1 of the bill.

The University was successful in removing this provision from the final version of the bill, which was passed unanimously by both chambers on May 10th.  Similar language naming the Institute and prohibiting funding was in the Senate version of HB2003, the higher education funding bill. The University was also successful in getting this language removed and replaced with language simply prohibiting the use of state funds for political activity. 

The House version of SB 455, which modifies the duties of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, still contains language prohibiting the operation of the Sue Shear Institute and creating a cause of action against any entity doing so. This bill is expected to go to conference next week and the University will work with conferees to have the language removed.

Capital funding bill continues to advance

Senate Bill 655, sponsored by Sen. Tim Green (D-St. Louis), was reported out of the House Rules committee on May 10th. The bill will be carried in the House by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) and is now in line for floor debate on the House Third Reading calendar for Senate Bills. Before debate can occur, however, the bill must be reviewed and passed by the Fiscal Review committee, which has posted a hearing for Monday, May 14th. The bill creates a higher education capital fund in which the state may appropriate 50 percent of the cost of a capital project when a higher education institution raises 50 percent of the cost through private means.

Chancellor George reports to St. Louis community

On May 4th, UMSL Chancellor Tom George presented his 36th annual report to the community.  The event drew nearly 700 people to the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis.  University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe spoke to the group and then Chancellor George gave a review of the many accomplishments at UMSL over the past year. Four awards were then given for distinguished service to UMSL.

A number of elected officials attended the event, including: Congressman Lacy Clay (D-MO), Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel, and Reps. Tommie Pierson (D-St. Louis), Margo McNeil (D-Florissant), Clem Smith (D-St. Louis), Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves), Jeanette Mott-Oxford (D-St. Louis), Tracy McCreery (I-St. Louis), and Susan Carlson (D-St. Louis).

Above: UMSL alum and Ameren Missouri President and CEO Warner Baxter (left) with Missouri Treasurer Clint Zwiefel (center), and UM President Tim Wolfe (right) at the UMSL Chancellor’s Report to the Community. For additional photos of the event, click here.

Marching Mizzou recognized before Legislature for international competition win

A 20-member contingency of Marching Mizzou came to Jefferson City with Director of Athletic Bands Brad Snow on May 8, to be recognized before the House and Senate for winning an international competition recently in Ireland.

The band first assembled on the Capitol steps and performed the fight song before coming into the House of Representatives chamber, where they were recognized by Columbia Representatives Mary Still, Chris Kelly, and Stephen Webber. At the request of lawmakers, the band struck up the Missouri Waltz and the Fight Song in the House chamber while legislators swayed and clapped. The band was then recognized before the Missouri Senate by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia). After a tour of the Capitol dome, the students played one more tune in the Senate hallway outside Schaefer’s office before returning to Columbia.

Marching Mizzou was named International Band Champion at the 42nd Limerick International band Championship in March. The band performed before thousands of spectators and in the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade.


Above: Marching Mizzou performing on the side gallery of the Missouri House during their visit to the Missouri Capitol. For additional photos of the band, click here. Photo courtesy of the Missouri House.

Assistant Attorney General among those recognized at UMSL award ceremony

Nicole Colbert-Botchway, who earned her MBA from UMSL in 2002, was given the “Rising Star Award” at the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ 2012 Salute to Business Achievement Award ceremony on April 19th. Nicole joined the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in 2004 after spending more than five years in the Circuit Attorney’s Office in the City of St. Louis. In addition to this recent award, Nicole was given the honor of being in the top “40 under 40” by the St. Louis Business Journal for her career achievement and community work in 2010.

Above from left: Attorney General Chris Koster, Rising Star Award recipient Nicole Colbert-Botchway, Dean of the UMSL College of Business Administration Keith Womer, and UMSL Chancellor Tom George.

Congressman Luetkemeyer congratulates MU Libraries

On May 2nd, MU Libraries celebrated their 150th anniversary of participating in the Federal Depository Loan Program (FDLP). The FDLP program was created by Congress to provide copies of government documents in local libraries. The celebration included a ceremony, a tour, and showcasing of rare books held at MU Libraries.

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) attended and presented a signed version of his congratulatory speech. Also in attendance were Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents at the U.S. Government Printing Office and Margaret Conroy, Missouri State Librarian.

Above: Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer presenting a signed copy of a speech congratulating MU Libraries on celebrating their 150th year of participating in the Federal Depository Loan Program. Photo courtesy of Marie Concannon.

Federal Relations

Students receiving new federal Stafford loans are scheduled to see interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent starting July 1 unless Congress intervenes. In 2007, the interest rate on Stafford federal student loans was reduced to 3.4 percent as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Extending the current interest rate of 3.4 percent would cost the federal government $6 billion annually.

Senate Democrats introduced S. 2343, a one-year fix paid for by ending a corporate tax break. On May 8, the Senate failed to meet the 60-vote requirement for cloture to end debate on the bill and bring it to a final vote. On April 27 the House passed HR 4628 by a vote of 215-195. The HR is also a one-year fix, paid for from an account in the President’s healthcare law. Negotiations on the bills will continue, as both parties seek to prevent the student loan interest rate from increasing. 

In other federal issues, Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the summary of the committee’s draft of the Farm Bill reauthorization on May 7. The draft  summary can be found here.  Items directly related to higher education included in the reauthorization are continued funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), university research on agricultural activities, and Extension services.