January 25, 2013

Budget hearings begin as Governor Nixon prepares to deliver State of the State address

Governor Nixon will give his State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly on Monday, January 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the House chamber.  The annual address features the Governor’s legislative and budgetary priorities for the upcoming year.

In other budget news, the Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), began taking public testimony this week about the various state budgets. The House Budget committee, chaired by Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), held an organizational meeting. The House Appropriations– Education committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe),  took public testimony regarding the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education.   Chairman Lair’s committee is scheduled to hear from the public 2- and 4-year Presidents on January 29 and 30. 

Columbia area legislators gather to discuss UM priorities with alumni

The annual Boone County Mizzou Alumni Chapter legislative reception and forum was held Thursday, January 24, at  Harpo’s in downtown Columbia.  Alumni and University supporters heard updates on several University priorities, including the operating budget, bonding proposals for higher education construction, and the MU Extension districting proposal.  The emcee for the evening was Wally Pfeffer, chair of the Mizzou Legislative Network. Legislative participants included Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), Rep. Caleb Jones (R-California), Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia), and Rep. John Wright (D-Rocheport).

IMG_1104-1Rep. Caleb Jones (R-California) speaks in front of the Boone County MU Alumni Chapter.
IMG_1120-1 MU Associate Professor Emeritus, Ted Groshong (left), converses with Rep. John Wright (D-Rocheport).

House and Senate leaders support bonding proposals

Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R-Eureka) held a press conference on January 23 to announce bipartisan support for a new bonding proposal. The Speaker, along with Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), and Rep. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield), discussed the current opportunity for a new proposal, due to low interest rates and the retirement of debt from the last large bonding proposal. 

Speaker Jones introduced House Joint Resolution 14 with 79 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.  The proposal is identical to Senate Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia).  Both proposals, pending voter approval in November 2014, would authorize the issuance of up to $950 million for the construction, renovation, and rebuilding of state-owned and higher education-related capital projects.  No more than $250 million of the proceeds may be allocated to projects unrelated to higher education and $40 million of this amount must be allocated to the maintenance of state parks and park facilities.  Fifteen percent of the total amount higher education receives must be dedicated for public community colleges.

Senate Joint Resolution 3 has been referred to the Senate Appropriations committee, which is chaired by the sponsor of the resolution, Sen. Schaefer.  The House version has been second read in the House and is expected to be referred to the Appropriations– Infrastructure and Job Creation committee, chaired by Rep. Kelly. That committee held an organizational meeting January 22 to discuss plans for the consideration of the proposals.

Bonding to support higher education facility needs is a high priority for the University of Missouri System because of major construction backlogs on all four campuses.

Joint Committee on Education meets to hear from Complete College America and discuss funding formula model

The Joint Committee on Education used a hearing January 24 with the national organization Complete College America as an opportunity to discuss strengths and weaknesses in the current proposed funding formula for higher education.  Complete College America is a national nonprofit organization established in 2009 with a mission of working with states to significantly increase the number of residents with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

Missouri has been actively examining the organization’s recommendations. CCA focuses on such areas as improving remedial education, improving retention rates, decreasing the average time it takes for students to complete degrees, and encouraging an emphasis on performance-based funding models. Mike Baumgartner, Vice President for Finance and Special Projects for CCA, testified before the Joint Committee and praised several aspects of the proposed funding formula model being developed by the committee.  He also reviewed the organization’s state-specific report on Missouri, which can be seen here.

During the question and answer session following Baumgartner’s presentation, legislators discussed the status of and next steps for the funding model.  The committee is taking public comment on the latest version of the model through February 1; then the committee plans to meet and release a revised version of the model on February 4. That model will include spreadsheets showing how institutions would be impacted by the model, according to Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), who chairs the committee. To see the Joint Committee web site with links to all of the reports, click here.

Obama begins second term

President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States during a private ceremony on January 20, as required by the Constitution. The public swearing-in was a part of the inaugural ceremonies held on January 21. United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office for President Obama, and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was selected by Vice President Joe Biden to administer his oath.

Congresswoman Emerson resigns

Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) resigned from Congress on January 23. She began representing Missouri’s 8th congressional district in 1996. On March 1, Emerson will become the President and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. State Republican and Democratic parties have until March 30 to select their candidates for a special election scheduled for June 4. The winner of the special election will serve as the member of the US House of Representatives for the remainder of the 113th Congress, which ends on January 3, 2015.

January 18, 2013

House and Senate schedule budget hearings

The House Appropriations – Education committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe), held its first two meetings this week. The committee heard from Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education, Paul Wagner, on January 15th for a discussion about performance funding for higher education. On January 16th, the committee heard testimony from Dr. Stacey Preis, the Executive Director of the Joint Committee on Education, about their work over the interim on possible higher education funding formulas. 

The committee has posted a notice for public testimony about elementary and secondary and higher education on January 23rd.  They will hear from all of the public 2- and 4-year Presidents or their representatives on January 29th and 30th.  University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe is scheduled to testify on the 30th

The Senate Appropriations committee chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) will take public testimony about higher education on January 22nd and they will hear from representatives of the higher education community in February.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ann Covington appointed to Board of Curators

Ann Covington, of Columbia, was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators on January 17. Covington was the first female judge to serve as member of the Missouri Supreme Court for more than 12 years, until retiring from the bench in 2001. Covington is appointed to serve in Missouri’s 4th Congressional district. Covington’s undergraduate degree is from Duke University, and her law degree is from the University of Missouri. For the entire press announcement from the Governor’s office, click here.

Governor Nixon sworn in during inauguration ceremonies

On January 14, Governor Jay Nixon began his second term as Missouri’s 55th governor at the inauguration ceremonies in Jefferson City. The event included a parade, swearing-in of elected officials, and the inaugural ball in Jefferson City. UM System President Tim Wolfe attended the swearing-in ceremony. Governor Nixon’s inauguration speech can be found here.


Above: Governor Jay Nixon (left) being sworn in by Circuit Judge Rex Burlison (right). Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel/House Communications.

Extension bill introduced in the House

Legislation to allow MU Extension to establish single- or multi-county Extension districts to increase efficiency in program delivery and provide options for funding future programming was introduced Jan. 17 in the House of Representatives. House Bill 202, introduced by Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho), would provide the statutory authority needed to establish the districting plan.

A companion bill, SB 9 sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was introduced earlier in the session in the Senate.

Alumni Alliance distributes maps to legislators

The Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension joined with the State Extension Council and 4H students at the Capitol to distribute maps to legislators on January 17th. After the modification of legislative district boundaries was final, the Alliance voted to devote a portion of their budget to the production of maps. The maps are a topographical representation of each legislator’s district and include facts about the University of Missouri’s impact on that district. The number of alumni, students, employees, and tax revenues returned to the district are reported and University and MU Extension properties are also designated on the maps.

The Alumni Alliance is a group of 40 members, comprised of alumni from all four of the University of Missouri campuses and Extension. The group was created by the Board of Curators in 1969 to encourage communication and cooperation among the System campuses and to help University advocates speak with one voice when delivering messages to legislators, community leaders, and the public. University Extension was added to the group in 1994. Every year, the Alliance hosts the annual Legislative Day at the Capitol. The 2013 Legislative Day is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3rd.

To learn more about the Alliance, click here.

Alliance Maps2

Above: Emily Paul (right), a 4-H representative from Neosho, was among volunteers delivering district maps to legislators in the Capitol January 17. Here, she delivers the map to state Rep. Bill Rieboldt (R-Neosho) (right).

Legislators tour MU facilities

About 50 members of the Missouri General Assembly spent part of the day on January 16, touring areas of the University of Missouri campus in Columbia to learn more about the institution and its mission to the state. The legislators, mostly freshman lawmakers in the House, toured the MU Research Reactor, Life Science Incubator, College of Engineering, University Hospital, and the Bond Life Sciences Center before going to Mizzou Arena to watch the Tigers defeat the Georgia Bulldogs in a basketball matchup.

The University illustrated its four part mission of teaching, research, service and economic development and highlighted legislative priorities for the coming session, including the operating budget, a bonding plan for capital improvements and the MU Extension districting proposal. Lawmakers heard from UM President Tim Wolfe and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton during the visit.

Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) recorded a short video log focusing on the importance of the mission of the University of Missouri System. The video log was filmed in front of the Columns and Jesse Hall on MU’s campus and can be found here.

Jones, Wolfe, Dempsey

Above from left to right: Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), UM System President Tim Wolfe, and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) during the MU basketball game on January 16th. Photo courtesy of Wally Pfeffer.

Deaton at MU Legislative Tour

Above: MU Chancellor Brady Deaton speaking to legislators during the MU legislative tour on January 16. Photo courtesy of Wally Pfeffer.

January 11, 2013

97th General Assembly convenes

The House of Representatives began the 97th General Assembly with the swearing-in of members and election of officers on January 9.  The House welcomed 51 freshman lawmakers to the lower chamber, which now includes 109 Republican members, 52 Democratic members, and two vacancies.

Representatives elected Tim Jones (R-Eureka) as Speaker of the House. Other leadership positions that were filled include Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem) as Speaker pro tempore, Rep. John Diehl (R-Town and Country) as Majority Floor Leader, and Rep. Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis City) as Minority Floor Leader.

Speaker Jones delivered an opening address that focused on economic development, education, and energy priorities. He also referenced support for a bonding plan that could benefit higher education and other areas. The Speaker’s address can be seen here.

Newly elected House Speaker Tim Jones addresses reporters during a news conference following his opening day address January 9. He is surrounded by other members of the Republican caucus.

Twelve freshman Senators were sworn in on opening day in the Senate.  With 24 Republicans and 10 Democrats, the Republican party will maintain its veto-proof majority.  Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St.Charles) was unanimously elected President pro tempore and Sen. Ron Richard (R-Joplin) will serve as Majority Floor Leader. Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) will be the new Minority Floor Leader.

Sen. Dempsey’s opening speech concentrated on the state’s need to build infrastructure, invest in education, and grow the economy.  Dempsey also noted his support for moving forward on new capital investment for research, classrooms, and vocational technology using existing state revenue. Read the speech here.

House and Senate name committees

As lawmakers prepared to begin legislative work, several key committee chair announcements were made this week.  Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) will chair the House Budget Committee. Other members of the committee can be seen here.

Rep. Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe) will chair the House Appropriations-Education Committee. Other members of the committee can be seen here.

Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) will continue to chair the House Higher Education Committee. Other members of the committee can be seen here.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will continue to be chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and its membership can be seen here.

Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) will retain his chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee.  Other members of the committee can be seen here.

Senate refers MU Extension bill

Legislation to allow MU Extension to form single- or multi-county districts to better provide programming at the local level has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.  Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) is expected to be heard in the coming weeks by the committee he chairs.

President Obama signs ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

On January 2, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 to avert income tax increases on most Americans. The bill permanently extends the marginal tax rates from the Bush-era tax cuts of 2001 for families earning up to $450,000.  In addition, the bill includes several provisions relating to higher education, including the following items:

  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit was extended for five years. This allows for a tax credit up to $2,500 for educational expenses for student expenses.
  • A permanent inclusion of graduate education in the IRS Section 127: Employer Educational Assistance. This allows for up to $5,250 per year in educational assistance paid for by an employer to not be considered taxable income.
  • A one-year extension of the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition related expenses up to $4,000.

The bill delays the impending cuts of sequestration, which were set to go into effect on January 2. The sequester is now scheduled to go into effect on March 1. The bill reduces the FY13 sequester cut from $109 billion to $85 billion to be split between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

Included in the fiscal agreement is a one-year extension of the farm bill that was passed in 2008. The extension is set to expire on September 30. Changes from the previous farm bill include four programs under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that were considered mandatory spending but are now subject to appropriations. However, these programs were given authorized spending levels higher than previously allowed. The programs affected are the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development, and the Biomass Research & Development programs.

For exact language on the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, click here.

Governor Nixon holds press conference at UMSL

On January 4, Governor Jay Nixon held a press conferance at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Joined by UMSL Chancellor Tom George and a number of state and local law enforcement officers, Governor Nixon called for the reinstatement of important public safety exemptions to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.  The exemptions expired at the end of 2012. The Governor called for a legislative renewal of the exemptions, as they help prevent the release of security plans and procedures that protect facilities such as schools, courthouses, and hospitals.

In the past, the General Assembly has extended these sections with broad bipartisan support and the Governor called on them to act on the issue early in the legislative session. 

Governor at UMSL with Chancellor Tom George

 Governor Jay Nixon speaks on the UMSL campus.