February 28, 2014

State Issues

Senate, House Consider Higher Education Budget Recommendations

The Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), met on February 25 to review the Department of Higher Education’s proposed FY 2015 budget.  Commissioner David Russell and Deputy Commissioner Leroy Wade presented the budget request approved by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the corresponding recommendations made by the Governor in late January. The committee will be able to propose its own version of the higher education budget, which is contained in HB 2003, after the bill is passed by the House of Representatives.

The House Budget committee, chaired by Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) met on February 27 to receive reports from appropriations committees, which are assigned certain departmental budgets. The Appropriations – Education committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe), presented its recommendations, including a $43 million increase to the state’s two- and four-year public institutions for performance funding. The committee also recommended a $12 million increase to fund a Bright Flight scholarship loan forgiveness program. If enacted by the General Assembly, the proposal would award scholarship recipients a “boost” of an additional $5000 per year, which would be forgiven for every year the student remains employed in the state after graduation, up to four years.

The committee also recommended increases of $9 million to the Access Missouri scholarship program and $6.7 million to the A+ scholarship program.  Finally, two University of Missouri-related programs received additional funding recommendations: the Missouri College Advising Corps would receive $500,000 under the committee’s recommendation and the State Historical Society would receive $483,250.

The Budget committee is expected to mark up the appropriations bills in the next two weeks, with a goal of having the budget bills on the House floor shortly after legislative spring break, which occurs March 14-23.

Bonding Resolutions Introduced

On the last day of bill filing in the Senate, two new resolutions were introduced regarding bonding for capital improvements.  Senate Concurrent Resolution 39, sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), relates to revenue bonds. Upon approval by the General Assembly, the resolution provides that revenue bonds may be used for construction, renovation, and maintenance on projects at certain state agencies and universities. Approval by the Governor would also be required. Senator Parson earlier introduced another bonding proposal, SB 723, which is currently on the Senate calendar for floor debate. It would also provide support for higher education and other capital improvements.

Senate Joint Resolution 56, sponsored by Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), authorizes bonding in the amount of $950 million, if approved by the voters in November, 2014.  The Twenty-First Century Infrastructure Fund is created from which funds may be used for the following purposes:

  • Costs associated with the upgrade, modernization, and maintenance of information technology in all three branches of government in a amount of $200 million or less;

  • The construction, renovation, and rebuilding of buildings at higher education institutions in an amount of no more than $550 million, including no less than fifteen percent of the proceeds to be allocated to public community colleges. Institutions must provide a fifteen percent match;

  • The Missouri state Capitol building in an amount of no more than $100 million; and

  • The construction, renovation, and rebuilding of state projects for purposes other than higher education in an amount of no more than $100 million.

The resolution is similar to provisions introduced in recent years by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), and is also similar to a House bonding resolution, HJR 73, sponsored by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-California).

House passes bill to fix wording problem in endowment statutes

The House took up and passed HB 1523, sponsored by Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) on February 26.  The bill corrects statutory wording in order to clarify that higher education institutions may move income from endowments to other investment pools that will generate higher returns. The bill corrects a problem from 2009 when additional wording was added to model language, which inadvertently rendered the language unenforceable.  The University of Missouri System and Washington University sought the change to clarify the process. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Legislator Profile – Senator Kurt Schaefer

Senator Kurt Schaefer presents award on Senate floor.

Senator Kurt Schaefer presents a resolution on Senate floor.

Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) is in his second term representing the 19th senatorial district. Schaefer’s role as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee demonstrates his leadership abilities and knowledge about the needs of Missouri. He also has served on the Senate Education Committee, handling many key policy issues that face colleges and universities in Missouri.

Funding for the University of Missouri has been one of his highest priorities, but he also notes education funding as a major challenge because of the current economic pressures on the state budget.  He has led Senate efforts to lessen the effects of reductions in higher education funding and to push for increases in operating budgets the past few years.

Despite the funding challenges, Schaefer realizes the significance of higher education for Missouri. “Higher education will benefit Missouri by preparing and providing our future leaders with the tools necessary to improve the quality of life in our state.”

Schaefer received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri, then went on to earn master’s and law degrees from the University of Vermont. While attending Mizzou, he gained networking opportunities and lifelong relationships and also met his wife, Stacia, while there. Today, they live in Columbia with their three children.  They stay involved in many community and University activities and appreciate the role it plays in the state.

“The mission of the University of Missouri is to provide students with an education foundation necessary to benefit their futures and the future of the state.” Schaefer said. “The university benefits the state by advancing teaching, research, and economic innovation. Furthermore, the institution generates business throughout the state, provides the economy with countless jobs in both research and business, and improves the earning potential of its graduates.”

He has received a number of awards for his support of the University of Missouri, including the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Geyer Award for Public Service to Higher Education, the Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension Presidential Citation Award, the Graduate-Professional Council Award, and legislator of the year from the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.

Mizzou Volleyball Team honored before House and Senate

MU Volleyball team stands before House to receive recognition for a successful season.

The MU Volleyball team stands before the House to receive recognition for a successful season.

MU Volleyball team and Senator Kurt Schaefer in Missouri State Capitol.

The MU Volleyball team and Senator Kurt Schaefer in Missouri State Capitol.

The Mizzou Volleyball Team visited Jefferson City on February 24 to be recognized before the Senate and House of Representatives for their accomplishments during the 2013 season. The Tigers brought home the University’s first Southeastern Conference Championship trophy and were the first SEC volleyball team ever to go undefeated in regular season with a 34-0 record.  Head Coach Wayne Kreklow, who was named SEC Coach of the Year, joined other coaches and players for the Jefferson City visit, which included a tour of the House Lounge and its Thomas Hart Benton murals, photos with legislators in the Capitol Rotunda, formal introductions before the Senate and House, and a visit to the top of the Capitol dome.

For more pictures click here.

Chelsea Clinton speaks at launch of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame at UMKC

Chelsea Clinton speaks at gala to launch the Starr Women's Hall of Fame.

 Chelsea Clinton speaks at the gala to launch the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame.

On February 24, Chelsea Clinton attended and spoke at the gala luncheon to launch the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame, which recognizes women from the Metropolitan Kansas City area who have had an impact on their community. She spoke about the importance of preserving the legacy of these women in order to inspire future female leaders. Chelsea pointed out that “it’s very hard to imagine what you can’t see. That’s why it is crucial that institutions like this exist. This will help UMKC students, and other young people, to see what is possible; to shape their dreams and fire their imaginations.”

For more information and pictures of the event, go here.

Federal Issues

President Wolfe participates in White House listening session

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe participated in a White House listening session on sexual assault on college campuses on February 26. President Wolfe was one of 20 university presidents who participated. The event included background from Administration officials from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and then featured a listening session on experiences and views from the participants. The event was one of several sessions being hosted by the Task Force.

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