Missouri’s legislative session ends, budget is sent to the Governor
After being truly agreed to and finally passed on May 9, the FY 2014 budget now awaits the Governor’s signature, veto, or partial veto. If the Governor signs House Bill 3, the higher education funding bill, as it was passed by the General Assembly, the University of Missouri System will receive an operating appropriation of $395,220,620. The bill also contains an additional $25 million for the state’s public two- and four-year institutions. The new funds are contained in their own line item and will be distributed based on the number of performance measures that are met.
Other items in HB 3 benefiting the University of Missouri System include $10 million for a cooperative program between the MU School of Medicine and CoxHealth and Mercy health systems in Springfield to expand the enrollment at MU to produce additional doctors for the southwest Missouri area. The UM operating budget line will also receive an added $1 million for the large animal veterinary program at MU. The State Historical Society will receive an additional $400,000 in its budget for FY2014 and the Missouri Kidney Program will receive an additional $250,000.
Bills must be signed by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Bonding initiative postponed until next year
House Joint Resolution 14, sponsored by Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R-Eureka), would have authorized bonds for the purpose of funding capital projects throughout the state, including buildings on the campuses of the state’s higher education institutions. The resolution received widespread support in the House, passing by a vote of 136 to 23 on May 9. The Senate second read and referred the resolution to the Senate Appropriations committee, but the committee did not hold a hearing on the joint resolution before the legislative session concluded on May 17.
Leaders in both the House and the Senate indicated that the bonding plan and potential projects will be studied before the 2014 legislative session begins next January.
Lawmakers approve Extension districting proposal
Language to allow MU Extension to form single- or multi-county districts to streamline programming was incorporated into three different bills that passed during the final days of the legislative session. The proposal also gives districts the option of placing property tax questions on the local ballot to support local programming.
The original legislation was filed by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) and Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho). In the end, the language was passed as part of three different omnibus agriculture bills: Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), Senate Bill 342, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), and House Bill 542, sponsored by Rep. Warren Love (R-Osceola).
The bills that contain this proposal, which originated through the MU State Extension Council, now go to the Governor for his signature.
Telehealth legislation passes the General Assembly
Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls (D-Kansas City) was truly agreed to and finally passed on the last day of the legislative session. While the final version became an omnibus bill, covering a number of health insurance-related provisions, the telehealth provisions represented a positive change for services currently provided by the University Hospitals and Clinics throughout the state.
The bill prohibits health plans from excluding an otherwise covered health care service from coverage solely because the service is provided to a patient through telehealth rather than through face-to-face visits. While the act does not require coverage of the technological costs of telehealth, it does require the coverage of diagnosis, consultation, and/or treatment at no greater rate than would be applicable for face-to-face visits. If the bill is signed by the Governor, these provisions will become effective on January 1, 2014.
The Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN) began in 1994 as one of the nation’s first public-private partnerships in telehealth. Today, MTN has over 202 sites in 62 Missouri counties and is funded with federal, state, and institutional dollars. By providing services by video to patients across the state, MTN averages 2000 visits annually at an average saved traveling distance for the patient of 160 miles each way. To illustrate a typical example, in the case of the Marshall Habilitation Center, each patient seen by a specialist over video instead of traveling to Columbia saves taxpayers approximately $300, resulting in $60,000 in savings per year. For more information on the Missouri Telehealth Network, please click here.
Sunshine public safety fix passes
On the last day of the legislative session, the Senate and the House both approved House Bill 256, sponsored by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-California), to repeal an expiration date on a provision in the Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law. The University of Missouri System supported the bill due to concerns that public safety and response plans on the campuses would no longer be protected.
A portion of current law regarding the disclosure of public safety and security guidelines was exempted from the Sunshine Law until December 31, 2012. Once this date passed, such public safety records were subject to open records requests, potentially endangering individual or public safety or health at universities, among other public institutions. House Bill 256 repeals the expiration date, thus ensuring such records can remain undisclosed. In early January, Governor Nixon held a press conference at the University of Missouri – St. Louis to encourage the repeal.
House takes no action on controversial funding formula plan
A proposal creating a model for funding the state’s public institutions of higher education passed the Senate but did not see any activity in the House during the last week of the legislative session. Senate Bill 437 was developed in response to legislation passed in 2012 calling for a funding formula. Sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), SB 437 was passed by a Senate vote of 23-9 on May 9 but was never considered by the House.
The University of Missouri System and other public, four-year institutions in the Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE) raised a number of concerns about the funding formula in its final form. The primary concerns related to a shift in future funding from four-year institutions to community colleges and questions about how professional programs are weighted. UM currently receives 47 percent of higher education funding and community colleges receive 15 percent. The formula would have changed the future funding allocations to 36 percent for UM and 30 percent for community colleges.
COPHE presidents are meeting this summer with the goal of coming to a consensus about future funding allocations. Later in the year, they will work with the Joint Committee on Education to provide input on a revised funding model that could be developed in preparation for the 2014 legislative session.
Bills related to veteran students pass; other proposals for Bright Flight, Access do not advance
Although several financial aid and veteran policy proposals were filed this session, the only ones that made it to the Governor’s desk relate to veteran students. Veterans will have an easier time determining which military academic credits will transfer to public institutions in Missouri as a result of Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla). The University of Missouri helped shape the language in the legislation to coordinate how transfer credits are currently considered for incoming students.
Another bill that passed is Senate Bill 117, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit). This bill specifies that military veterans who meet certain requirements will be treated as in-state students for tuition purposes at public institutions. The students would have to prove physical presence in the state, and they would also have to apply for residency as a condition of the reduced tuition.
Legislation related to Bright Flight and Access Missouri scholarships did not advance. Senate Bill 378, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), and House Bill 745, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), would have required minimum credit completions per year for renewal and would have cut off the scholarships after either 8 or 10 semesters.
An overview of other major bills that passed during the 2013 legislative session
Taxes: House Bill 253, sponsored by Rep. T.J. Berry (R-Kearney), gradually cuts top personal and corporate income tax rates as long as annual state revenues continue to increase. The personal tax rate is reduced from 6 percent to 5.5 percent and the corporate tax rate is decreased to 3.125 percent from its current 6.25 percent. The bill also authorizes Missouri to participate in the interstate Streamlined Sales Tax Compact and allows the state to receive revenue if federal law changes to require the collection of sales tax on Internet and catalog purchases. The bill passed on May 9 and is currently awaiting action by the Governor. It is estimated to reduce state revenues by $700 million or more when fully implemented.
Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), creates a tax credit which may be available for sports commissions, certain nonprofit organizations, counties, and municipalities to offset expenses incurred in attracting amateur sporting events to Missouri. The Governor signed this bill in late March.
Workers’ Compensation: Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), doubles a business fee to help replenish the state’s Second Injury Fund. The fund, which was created for disabled workers who suffer additional job-related injuries, is currently insolvent. The bill was passed on May 16.
Legislation Required for Budget Balance: Both House Bill 116 and House Bill 986 had to be passed under a deal between the General Assembly and the Governor to balance the state budget sent to him on May 9. House Bill 116, sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville), and HB 986, sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), both contain language to create the Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund. The fund will receive $55 million from general revenue to support four programs, including the First Steps program for developmentally disabled children and a program providing health care for the blind. The source of funding for the programs was part of an earlier debate that held up the passage of the budget. House Bill 986 also creates the Joint Committee on Medicaid Transformation, which will convene over the interim to study and recommend future legislative action on Medicaid.
“Circuit Breaker” Tax: Senate Bill 350, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), was part of the budget deal mentioned above. The bill also created the Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund to support the same programs involved in HB 116 and HB 986. This bill, however, would have funded those programs through the elimination of the renter’s portion of the Senior Citizens Property Tax Credit, which is commonly known as the “circuit breaker” tax credit. The General Assembly sent the bill to the Governor on May 14, and it was vetoed by the Governor on the same day.
An overview of major bills that did not pass during the 2013 legislative session
Transportation Sales Tax: Senate Joint Resolution 16, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City), and House Joint Resolution 23, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), both proposed a constitutional amendment establishing a 1-cent sales tax to raise $7.8 billion over ten years to fund road improvements and other transportation needs. The Senate version nearly made it through the entire legislative process, but final approval was prevented in the Senate on the last day of the legislative session.
Medicaid Expansion: Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Sen. Paul LeVota (D-Independence) and House Bill 627, sponsored by Rep. Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), would have expanded Missouri’s Medicaid program to those individuals living at 138 percent of the federal poverty level and below. The expansion mirrored that required by the federal Affordable Care Act in order for states to receive federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Both bills were considered in committee, but were defeated. Another bill, House Bill 700, sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) proposed an alternative to the Medicaid expansion required by federal law, but it stalled before it could move out of the House.
Tax Credits: House Bill 698, sponsored by Rep. Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), would have scaled back existing tax credit programs, including those currently allowed for historic buildings and low-income housing. The bill also would have enacted new tax incentives for international air cargo exports, computer data centers and investors in high-tech companies. The bill was brought up in the Senate on the last day of session, but failed to receive a final vote.
Medical Malpractice: House Bill 112, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), proposed to reinstate limits on non-economic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits following a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned those caps. The bill stalled in the Senate.
Utility Surcharge Bills: Senate Bill 207, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City), and House Bill 398, sponsored by Rep. Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane), would have allowed electric corporations to recover costs for infrastructure replacement projects. Neither of the bills made it out of their originating chamber.
MU law professor testifies before US House Committee on Small Business
University of Missouri Law Professor David Crouch testified before the US House Committee on Small Business at a May 15 hearing titled “Patent Reform Implementation and New Challenges for Small Businesses.” The committee is chaired by Missouri Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO). Video of the committee’s entire hearing can be found here. Professor Crouch is the first witness to give testimony in the video.
US House Committee on Education and the Workforce passes student loan interest rate bill
H.R. 1911 was passed by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce on May 16 by a vote of 24-15. The bill would prevent interest rates from increasing from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1 by tying annual federal student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury Note with a defined markup. The American Council on Education submitted a letter to the committee chairman, Congressman John Kline (R-MN), and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chairs a subcommittee, on behalf of higher education associations to commend the committee’s effort to address the pending increase of student loan interest rates.
US House and Senate Committees on Agriculture approve separate farm bills
The US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry passed its version of the farm bill, S. 954, titled the “Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013,” on May 14 by a vote of 15-5. On May 15, the US House Committee on Agriculture passed a different version of the bill, H.R.1947, titled the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013,” by a vote of 36-10.
The bills are similar in nature, but they would allocate different amounts of funding to programs administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The Senate version would establish a “Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research” which would be a new, 501(c)(3) organization and provide $200 million in mandatory funding. The House bill would establish new matching fund requirements for most NIFA competitive grant programs, but land-grant universities and their cooperating partners would be exempt from these matching fund requirements.
Both bills include language authorizing policy research centers. The House bill would authorize funding levels of $5 million for this purpose, while the Senate proposal would authorize up to $10 million. This funding would be subject to appropriations each year.
The Senate may begin floor debate on their version as early as May 20.