March 7, 2014

State Issues

House Budget committee reviews budget bills

Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) unveiled his House Committee Substitutes (HCS) for the FY 2015 budget bills on March 5, and on March 6 the House Budget committee began reviewing the bills. The committee substitute for House Bill 2003, which is the higher education funding bill, contained a few changes from the Governor’s and House Appropriations – Education committee recommendations.

Under the HCS, institutional core budgets would receive an increase of two percent, differing from the previously recommended five percent. A two percent increase would result in $17.3 million in additional funding to be distributed according to the number of performance measures an institution meets.

An increase of $7 million is recommended for the Bright Flight scholarship program. The Governor initially recommended $17 million and the Appropriations – Education committee recommended $12.2 million. Any level of increase would fund a “boost”, or loan forgiveness program, to award additional funds to students as an incentive to remain in the state after graduation.  Under the HCS, eligible 2014 incoming freshmen would receive the $2,500 regular award and will also receive an additional $7,000 per year. The HCS also recommends a $20 million increase for the Access Missouri scholarship program, which is above the Governor’s recommendation of an $8.5 million increase.

The committee substitute also contains $10 million in equity funding for community colleges, $1.5 million for a Telehealth ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) project to expand the availability of specialty health care in underserved areas. Finally, a new line is included in the amount of $300,000 for an international collaboration with Israel, to be housed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  The HCS does not include the Governor’s recommendation of $22 million to STEM initiatives or $19.7 million for a Caring for Missourians program to train mental health professionals.

This week, Chairman Stream also introduced HB 2019, which is the capital funding bill. The bill currently includes all of the proposed higher education 50/50 capital match projects, including all of the University of Missouri’s proposed projects.

The Budget committee will meet again on March 10 to conclude its review of the committee substitutes and is expected to amend and vote on the bills before the General Assembly adjourns for its spring break on March 13.

Senators discuss bonding proposal for higher education maintenance and repair

Along with major construction projects highlighted on capital improvement request lists each year, higher education institutions also have growing lists of deferred maintenance and repair on their campuses. Such projects were the focus of debate on March 4 when the Senate considered SB 723, sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar). The bill would allow lawmakers to approve revenue bonding of up to $375 million for maintenance and repair projects on public higher education campuses.  After two hours of debate, the bill was placed on the informal calendar to await further consideration.

Senate, House committees hear veterinary medicine loan bill

Dr. William Fales with Rep. Caleb Jones.
Dr. William Fales from MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine testifies in support of the veterinary medicine loan program with Rep. Caleb Jones (right).

Several years ago, the General Assembly approved legislation establishing a loan forgiveness program for students going into large animal veterinary medicine at the University of Missouri. The goal of the new law was to help address shortages in the large animal field.  Students selected for the $20,000 per year loan must agree to remain in the state after completing their degree and work in a large animal practice, or repay the loan.  Under current law, the program is scheduled to sunset in 2013, so legislation has been introduced to eliminate the sunset language and allow the program to continue.

Senate Bill 859, sponsored by Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla), and HB 1998, sponsored by Representative Caleb Jones (R-California), were both heard before agriculture committees in their respective chambers this week.  The College of Veterinary Medicine at MU, the state Veterinary Medical Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and several other groups testified in support of the bills.

UM students participate in Undergraduate Research Day

Representative Margo McNeil, Serene Darwish, UM System President Time Wolfe
Representative Margo McNeil (D-St. Louis) visits with Serene Darwish, a senior biology major from Florissant, and UM System President Tim Wolfe during Undergraduate Research Day. 

Legislators had an opportunity to learn more about research projects conducted by students from the University of Missouri System campuses during Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on March 4. A total of 46 students representing all four campuses participated in the event, which included poster presentations of the research projects in the Capitol rotunda, visits with Senators and Representatives, and recognition before the Missouri House of Representatives.

Research topics ranged from education and plant physiology to autism and the safety of diverging diamond interchanges. Legislators, along with University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe and UM Executive Vice President Hank Foley, took time to discuss the research findings with the students and learn more about their educational experiences.

The event is designed to illustrate the unique opportunities undergraduate students have to work with leading faculty on cutting edge research at the University of Missouri.

For more pictures click here.

Legislator Profile – Representative Rocky Miller

Rep. Rocky Miller visits with Tim Albers.
Rep. Rocky Miller visits with Tim Albers, the director of recruitment marketing and enrollment development for Missouri S&T.

After serving on the school board at School of the Osage for thirteen years, Representative Rocky Miller decided to bring his knowledge and expertise to the Missouri House of Representatives. Representative Miller is in his second legislative session representing the Miller and Camden county areas. He sits on nine house committees, including serving as the Vice Chairman of House Appropriations – Revenue, Transportation and Economic Development.

Before pursuing politics, Miller was the Director of the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA). This experience allowed him to surround himself with people equally passionate about the success of students within Missouri.

Representative Miller’s experience with the MSBA greatly impacted his stance on higher education. “Educating our people is a fundamental requirement of the state and we must keep it in reach of all with a desire” Miller explained. “Higher education is our gateway to a better economic future in Missouri. University of Missouri should be a driver of the economy.”

As a civil engineering major, politics was not something Miller considered during his undergraduate experience, but the skills learned at the Missouri University of Science and Technology helped him succeed on a professional and political level.

“Refining my problem-solving talents at Rolla gave me a heads up in my engineering, business and political career.  To people that have this ability, it does not seem like a big deal, but being able to put the facts together and solve the riddle is sometimes unique.  Especially, in politics.”

Representative Miller continues to use the skills he gained at Missouri S&T to serve the state of Missouri and his constituents.

Senator Brown attends Missouri S&T challenge

Senator Dan Brown and Dr. Wayne Huebner.
Senator Dan Brown and Dr. Wayne Huebner, chair of Materials Science and Engineering at Missouri S&T observe teams during their preparations.

On March 1, Missouri University of Science and Technology hosted the State Championship for the 2013 FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics competition.  A total of 323 students on 36 teams from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee competed in the event.  In addition, another 900 spectators observed the competition throughout the day.

Winners in several categories from this event progress to the FTC Super Regional Competition later in March, and those who qualify there will progress to the FIRST® World Championship in St. Louis in late April.

State Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla) and Dr. Wayne Huebner, Chair of Materials Science and Engineering at Missouri S&T, observed the teams during their preparations, and offered welcoming addresses during the opening ceremonies.

Mizzou Football team visits the Capitol

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, Coach Gary Pinkel, and Sen. Kurt Shaefer.

From left: Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, Coach Gary Pinkel, and Sen. Kurt Schaefer

MU Football team visits the Capitol

From left: Athletic Director Mike Alden, Chancellor Bowen Loftin, Rep. Chris Kelly, Rep. Caleb Jones, Coach Gary Pinkel, Rep. John Wright, and Rep. Caleb Rowden

Members of the 2013 Mizzou football team, along with head coach Gary Pinkel, athletic director Mike Alden, and Chancellor Bowen Loftin, visited the state Capitol on March 5 to meet with legislators and fans.  The team brought along the 2014 Cotton Bowl trophy as well as the 2013 SEC East Championship trophy.

Players autographed posters and footballs for legislators during a morning session in the House Lounge, where lawmakers also posed for photos with Coach Pinkel, Chancellor Loftin and the Cotton Bowl trophy.  Players and coaches were then recognized by the Missouri Senate and Missouri House of Representatives before returning for another autograph session with legislative staff and the public.

For more pictures click here.

Federal Issues

President Obama releases FY 2015 budget

President Barack Obama released his FY15 presidential budget request on March 4 to mark the unofficial start of the budget and appropriations process in Congress. Hearings will begin soon to allocate funds based on spending levels that have already been determined for FY15. Broad highlights of the budget include:

USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA):

  • NIFA’s Agriculture & Food Research Initiative: $325 million (3% increase)
  • Hatch Act: $244 million (level with FY14)

National Institute of Standards & Technologies (NIST)

  • $15 million for advanced manufacturing technology consortium efforts

Department of Education:

  • $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant Award for a total of $5,830 per student
  • Level funding for federal work study, supplemental educational opportunity grants, and federal TRIO programs
  • A new state higher education performance fund of $4 billion

Department of Energy:

  • A 2.6% increase in funding

Department of Health & Human Services

  • $30.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health (less than a 1% increase from FY14)
  • Increased funding levels for the BRAIN Initiative, Alzheimer’s research, and vaccine development

National Science Foundation

  • $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation (a 1% increase from FY14)

Department of Defense

  • $11.5 billion for all basic research activities (6.9% decrease from FY14)

Other tax policies

  • A permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Student loan forgiveness treated as non-taxable income.

MU Extension visits Washington

MU Extension visits Washington.

From left to right: UM System federal relations director Craig Stevenson, Associate Vice Provost and Associate Director of MU Extension Beverly Coberly, Congressman Billy Long, Assistant Dean of Agriculture Extension David Baker, and Lincoln University Extension volunteer Tom Brown.

On March 4 and 5, MU Extension administrators and volunteers visited Washington D.C. with the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET). They went to Capitol Hill to thank the members of Congress for their support of the farm bill and to discuss the FY15 budget request. The MU Extension administrators and volunteers got to meet with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Congressmen Sam Graves (R-MO), Billy Long (R-MO), and Jason Smith (R-MO).

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