April 4, 2014

State Issues

Appropriations Bills in Senate Committee Next Week

The Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), will begin reviewing the FY 2015 appropriations bills on April 7.  Appropriations for two- and four- year public institutions of higher education are contained in HB 2003. Under the plan passed by the House, institutions would receive a three percent core increase, totaling $26.5 million, to be allocated among the institutions according to the number of performance measures met.  For FY 2015, the University of Missouri System met all of the established measures, and could see an increase of at least $13 million to its operating core budget.  Should the Senate decide on a higher percentage for performance funding, that amount could increase. The committee will review and amend the appropriations bills over the next two weeks, with the bills moving to the Senate floor by mid-April.

In related news, the Missouri Office of Budget and Planning released the state’s March revenue receipts. Net general revenue collections to date for FY 2014 increased 1.7 percent compared to the same time last year, but net general revenue collections for March 2014 decreased by 0.7 percent compared to those for March 2013.

Bill to Fund Higher Education Renovations Passes Senate

On April 3, the Senate advanced SB 723,  sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), to the House by a 25-6 vote.  The bill increases the amount of revenue bonds that may be issued by the state for renovations to public higher education and other state buildings. Prior to the vote, Senators discussed the lack of funding for such repairs over the last few years and the need to resume a regular allocation of resources to these projects. Because the bill increases the bonding capacity of the state, it would not require a vote of the people and could be enacted by passage and signature by the Governor.

This week, Senator Parson also presented a corresponding resolution, SCR 39, to the Senate Rules committee, which passed the bill unanimously on April 2. The resolution lists the maintenance and repair projects slated for funding. Under the current version of the plan, the four campuses of the University of Missouri System and some of its Agricultural Experiment Stations could receive a total of $71 million in funding.  Projects range from laboratory suite remodeling to waterproofing and foundation work, all of which are a part of the $1.3 billion UM currently has in critical facility needs. While SB 723 moves to the House, SCR 39 could see Senate floor debate next week.

For a list of the four campuses’ priority deferred maintenance projects click here.

House passes new scholarship for agriculture students

Students who hold agriculture or dairy internships and remain in Missouri to work after graduating could receive up to $5,000 per year in scholarships under a plan passed this week by the House of Representatives. The bill, HB 1326 sponsored by Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), also provides the opportunity for support of MU’s Commercial Agriculture program and establishes a dairy margin protection program that is tied to the federal Farm Bill. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Higher Education Committee discusses funding formula bill

A Senate bill codifying the process for allocating state support to public institutions of higher education was heard before the House Higher Education Committee on April 2. Senate Bill 492, sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), outlines the way new funding for higher education would be allocated based on performance, equity adjustments reflecting enrollment growth, and other factors.  The Senate passed version of the bill did not incorporate community colleges, but the committee chair, Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), indicated that a committee substitute would be offered to include community colleges in the allocation model as well.  A similar bill has already been passed by the House and is awaiting Senate committee consideration.

House committee hears Telehealth bill

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Dr. Karen Edison (left) testifies in support of HB 2154, sponsored by Representative Diane Franklin (right).

On April 2, the House Special Standing Committee on Emerging Issues in Health Care heard HB 2154, sponsored by Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton). The bill requires the University of Missouri to manage the Show-Me Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes (ECHO) program, in collaboration with the State Department of Health and Senior Services. If approved, the program would use the university’s current Telehealth technology to expand the capacity to diagnose and treat patients in underserved areas of the state. Teams of medical experts will teach best practices to local primary care providers who, in turn, will be able to deliver treatment to patients more quickly and without the need for travel to a larger medical center like MU’s University Hospitals.

The program is subject to appropriations and $1.5 million is currently in the higher education budget to support the program.  Dr. Karen Edison, Chair of the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology and Medical Director of the Missouri Telehealth Network testified in support of the bill, along with Rachel Mutrux, the Director of the Missouri Telehealth Network. The bill was approved by the committee and will await a referral to the floor for debate by the full House.

Senate takes final vote on tax cut proposal; House plans heard in Senate Committee

This week the Senate took a final vote on SB 509, a comprehensive tax cut proposal sponsored by Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit) that would reduce personal income and business taxes over a five year period beginning in 2017.  The phased reductions would only go into effect when revenues grow by $150 million over the high point of the previous three years.  The bill also includes a recalculation of tax brackets.

The official fiscal note for the bill, once fully phased in, is $620 million, although some groups argue it would be higher. Governor Nixon has issued a statement opposing the legislation because it does not include tax credit reform and would therefore harm funding for education and other state services.

The bill was approved on a party-line vote of 23-9. It now moves to the House for consideration. Also this week, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard two bills that make up the House tax cut plan: HB 1253 sponsored by Representative T.J. Berry (R-Kearney), and HB 1295 sponsored by Representative Andrew Koenig (R-St. Louis). No action was taken by the committee.

UM campuses present to House committee on veterans

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From left: Jim Craig from UMSL, Carol Fleisher from MU, and Stephen Tupper from Missouri S&T presented before the House Veterans Committee on April 1.

Veteran centers and representatives from the four University of Missouri System campuses presented updates on veteran services to the House Veterans Committee on April 1. Carol Fleisher from MU, Jim Craig from UMSL, Stephen Tupper from Missouri S&T, and Marty Oetting representing UMKC provided the legislators with overviews of veterans served and special programs provided for returning veterans and their families.  For more information on veteran activities on each of the four campuses, please visit the links below:

MU: http://veterans.missouri.edu/

UMKC: http://www.umkc.edu/veterans/

UMSL: http://www.umsl.edu/veterans/

Missouri S&T: http://registrar.mst.edu/links/veterans/

The Committee also received a brief update on the Missouri Veterans History Project (MVHP) in which the University of Missouri System is a partner. The project organizes volunteers to record interviews with veterans and then makes the recordings available to the State Historical Society of Missouri and the Library of Congress. More than 600 interviews have been completed since the project was organized as a nonprofit corporation in 2011. For more information on MVHP, go here: www.mvhp.net

ASUM students testify on bill to promote STEM internships

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Rep. Ron Hicks (left) and ASUM legislative intern Alex Hanson present HB 2038 to the House Economic Development Committee Wednesday, April 2.

Legislation that would provide businesses a tax credit for hiring students in science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – related internship experiences was heard this week before the House Economic Development Committee. House Bill 2038, sponsored by Representative Ron Hicks (R- St. Peters), would allow up to $50,000 in total tax credits. The legislation was brought forward this year by the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) as a way to encourage more internship opportunities for students in the STEM fields. Legislative intern Alex Hanson presented the proposal on behalf of ASUM.

Fire Training leaders recognize Senator Schaefer for support

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From left: Beverly Coberly, Michael Ouart, Senator Kurt Schaefer, David Hedrick, and Kevin Zumwalt.

The Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute (FRTI), which operates as part of MU Extension, conducts training for firefighters across the state.  Representatives of the organization came to Jefferson City to recognize Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) for his support of FRTI and MU Extension this week.  The FRTI also recognized Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) for his support earlier this year. Michael Ouart, Vice Provost for Extension; Beverly Coberly, Associate Vice Provost for Extension; David Hedrick, FRTI Director; and Kevin Zumwalt, Associate FRTI Director; came to the Capitol on April 2.

Legislator Profile: Senator Joe Keaveny

After spending 20 years as a Committeeman for the 28th Ward in St. Louis, Senator Joe Keaveny decided to represent the diverse 4th district as a Missouri State Senator. Keaveny knew that being a Senator for District 4 meant working hard to represent the people who elected him while “taking a holistic approach and always striving to do the best for the state as a whole.”

First elected in 2009, he now serves as minority caucus chair. One of his ongoing priorities is to repeal the death penalty in the state of Missouri, and he is sponsoring a bill to audit the cost of the death penalty. The Senator hopes the legislature can eventually have a discussion on whether the death penalty is worth the financial cost to the state.

Keaveny is also passionate about education, which he believes can improve economic prosperity in Missouri.

“Higher education prepares the students and the citizens, and the children of the citizens in the state for a career where they can succeed and ensure their future,” Keaveny said.

Despite the obvious benefits to the state, he acknowledges the complex challenge of funding higher education. Keaveny broke down the challenge into two key areas that must be discussed, “one is to provide a challenging curriculum and two is to make sure people can afford to have access to it.”

Keaveny, a graduate from University of Missouri-St. Louis, reflects on the skills and experiences he gained from the university while obtaining a degree in accounting.

“The relationships you develop that foster the experience [at UMSL] are invaluable… I am very thankful to the university that I am in the position I am in,” Keaveny explained.

Federal Issues

President Wolfe meets with members of Missouri’s Congressional delegation

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Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) and UM System President Tim Wolfe in Washington D.C.

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe met with members of Missouri’s Congressional delegation on April 3. The president updated members on the system’s progress revising policies related to sexual assault and mental health and summer student internships in Washington D.C. He also promoted his ongoing Show Me Value tour across the state of Missouri.

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