April 18, 2014

State Issues

Senate prepares to consider FY 15 Budget

Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, has posted a hearing for April 22 for the committee to make final decisions on the FY 2015 budget bills before sending them to the full Senate for consideration. Lawmakers must complete work on the budget by May 9.

Last week, the committee finalized most decisions related to the higher education budget, leaving just a few issues undecided. To read about the committee’s action on University of Missouri – related items, go here.

Bonding bill heard in house committee

On April 15, the House Budget committee, chaired by Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), conducted a hearing on SB 723. Sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), the bill would raise the cap on the amount of revenue bonds the state may issue to pay for capital projects at higher education institutions and other state facilities. Proposed maintenance and repair projects are listed in a companion resolution, SCR 39, also sponsored by Senator Parson. Should both pieces of legislation pass, the University of Missouri could receive $71 million for projects on its four campuses and at some of UM’s agricultural experiment stations.

The committee has posted notice of an executive session on SB 723 for April 22.  That same day, the committee will consider HB 2021, which appropriates monies for the purpose of funding 50/50 capital match projects on all four UM campuses and at other public institutions across the state.  Current law allows public institutions to solicit donations for fifty percent of the cost of a particular capital project and, upon doing so, request the other half of the funding from the state. The bill currently contains the following projects for UM:

  • UMKC Free Enterprise Center = $7.4 million
  • UMSL College of Business Administration = $10 million
  • Missouri S&T Experimental Mine Building = $1.2 million
  • MU Lafferre Hall in the College of Engineering = $6.1 million
  • MU Applied Learning Center in the College of Business = $11.1 million
  • MU Fine Arts and Performing Arts Facilities = $2.7 million
  • MU Teaching and Research Winery in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources = $1.5 million

Lawmakers send Governor new tax cut legislation

This week lawmakers passed SB 509, sponsored by Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), which would cut business and income taxes beginning in 2017.  The bill, which carries a fiscal note of $620 million or more once fully phased in, is now on the Governor’s desk, where he has fifteen days to sign or veto it.  Governor Nixon has raised several concerns about the bill but has not yet indicated the action he will take.

If vetoed, lawmakers would have an opportunity to attempt an override before the end of the legislative session on May 16. An override would require 109 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate.  The House was unsuccessful in overriding a larger tax cut bill vetoed by the governor in 2013.

Expansion of Bright Flight scholarship passes House, debated in the Senate

In an effort to increase the value of Bright Flight scholarships, the House passed a measure that would provide recipients with an additional $5,000 forgivable loan if they remain in the state after graduating.  House Bill 1308, sponsored by Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), was passed by the House on April 17.  Bright Flight students currently receive about $2,500 per year, which is less than the $3,000 statutory maximum.  Students who agree to the terms of the proposed loan forgiveness program would receive $5,000 in a forgivable loan per year on top of the underlying award.

Senate Bill 494, which is a similar proposal sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was debated this week on the Senate floor. Several senators had questions about the proposal and it was placed on the informal calendar for future consideration.

Senate Agriculture Committee hears dairy scholarship bill

Several University of Missouri experts were on hand to testify in support of HB 1326 before the Senate Agriculture committee on April 16.  The bill, sponsored by Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), passed the House earlier in the session.  Among other things, the bill would establish a $5,000 forgivable loan scholarship for agriculture students who intern during the summer and stay in the state after graduation to work in the agriculture or dairy fields.  The bill also includes support for MU’s Commercial Agriculture Program and enacts a dairy margin insurance program for farmers in the state.

During the Senate hearing, supportive testimony was provided by Ryan Milhollin, agriculture economist with the Commercial Agriculture Program at MU; Tom McFadden, director of the animal sciences division for MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; and David Baker, assistant dean of the College of Agriculture at MU. The committee did not take action on the bill.

Missouri S&T professor testifies before House committee

LU 4-18 Thorium

From left: Dr. Shoaib Usman, Missouri S&T professor of Mining and Nuclear Engineering, and Representative Dave Schatz 

The House Utilities committee held a hearing on HCR 40 on April 16.  Sponsored by Representative Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), the resolution urges the U. S. Congress to support the development of a rare earth element refinery and create a thorium bank to store and develop uses and a market for thorium.  Dr. Shoaib Usman, Missouri S&T professor of Mining and Nuclear Engineering, testified in support of the resolution.  Dr. Usman noted the benefits of thorium technology and discussed efforts to introduce thorium into the current nuclear fuel cycle, including the fact that thorium technologies fit into the nuclear industry’s move to small modular reactors or SMRs. Missouri S&T and the University of Missouri – Columbia currently participate in a Small Modular Reactor Research and Education Consortium with Ameren and Westinghouse Electric Co.

ASUM hosts student lobby day

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Students from all four UM campuses came to Jefferson City on April 17 to visit with lawmakers about University priorities as part of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri’s annual lobby day at the Capitol.  Students shared support for the UM operating budget, financial aid programs, capital improvement priorities, and student issues such as landlord-tenant legislation.  ASUM is a student-run and student-funded organization that includes a system-wide board of directors representing each campus and a group of student lobbyists who represent student interests in Jefferson City each session. ASUM presented legislator of the year awards during the event to Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) and Representative Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters).

UMKC hosts area legislators for luncheon

Each month, the UMKC Alumni and Trustees Joint Government Relations Committee and UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton host a luncheon featuring members of the Kansas City legislative delegation, giving alumni, trustees, and university leaders an opportunity to discuss higher education issues. Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City), and Representatives T.J. Berry (R-Kearney),  Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City), and  Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) all participated on March 28.  The group discussed UMKC’s Free Enterprise Center 50/50 capital match proposal, deferred maintenance and repair needs on the campus, and heard a presentation about the UMKC School of Nursing. Another luncheon is scheduled for May 2.

Legislator Profile – Representative Kevin Elmer

LU 4-18 Elmer

Representative Kevin Elmer (R-Nixa) is completing his second term as a representative for western Christian County. Elmer is the Vice-Chairman of the House judiciary Committee and received his J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 2000. He currently works as a private practice attorney.

When asked about the significance of higher education in Missouri, Elmer explained that the increase in jobs requiring higher education degrees depends on “solid and well-funded” higher education institutions.

“I would like to see our kids that are in Missouri, stay in Missouri to be educated, and work here when they get out. Keeping our best and brightest in higher education is critical in achieving that goal,” Elmer said.

Elmer also understands the impact higher education has on economic development. When touring some of the University of Missouri system research parks and business incubators recently, he noted how critical the research and development is to the state.

“As a University, the research that goes back into private business and industries to benefit those areas is vital to help our economic growth…you can see a product coming out of those that contribute to our economic viability,” Elmer said.

MU Chancellor Loftin meets with legislative interns

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MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin (center), visits with MU legislative interns, including Bethany Foster (right), an intern with Representative Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) during a lunch he hosted at the Capitol on April 15. More than 80 University of Missouri students intern in the Capitol through several programs, including the Civic Leadership Intern Program (CLIP).

Federal Relations

University of Missouri Extension members meet in Washington D.C. for annual leadership workshop

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From left: Michael Ouart, Vice Provost for Extension; Teresa Bishop, Youth Program Coordinator;  Lynda Zimmerman, Regional Nutrition Specialist; Madelaine Giebler, 4-Her; Congressman Long (R-MO); Walt Martens, Extension State Council; Nancy Coleman, Regional Youth Specialist; and Mark Stewart, Regional Director.

Members of the University of Missouri Extension met earlier this month in Washington, D.C. with other extension organizations from throughout the country for the Joint Council of Extension Professionals’ (JCEP) 2014 Public Issues Leadership Workshop. Attendees had the opportunity to meet with legislators, discuss current issues, and collaborate over plans for the future. The Joint Council was created to foster partnerships between professional Extension organizations.

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