Legislators, staff, and lobbyists headed back to the Capitol this week for another busy week. This week the budget committee met to do markup while the policy committees continued to hear and exec on numerous bills. The Senate worked into the early morning hours on local public health orders related to COVID-19 on Tuesday. The bill hit a speed bump and it is too early to tell if the issue is absolutely dead, but clearly any change will be a struggle now.
The final field for the 2022 United States Senate race remains unclear, although Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens both formally announced their candidacies. The weeks ahead will tell us if other candidates join this race.
Monday afternoon House Higher Education met and voted out Rep. Jason Chipman’s HB 682, which would prohibit public institutions of higher education from requiring students to live on campus more than 1 year. The bill passed with an amendment offered by Chairwoman Brenda Shields, which would delay the start date of the law until 2034. There are only three public institutions which have a 2 year requirement for students to live on campus – Missouri S&T, SEMO, and UCM.
Additionally, the committee heard HB 1346, sponsored by Rep. Mike Henderson. The bill creates a funding formula for public higher educational institutions and community colleges based on workforce outcomes. The committee was split on the formula laid out in the bill, but Rep. Henderson has expressed his intent to work diligently with the institutions and committee members on the language.
Monday evening, the House General Laws Committee met and voted out HB 86, sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor. This bill includes the language to allow CCW permit holders to carry on higher education campuses. Chairman Curtis Trent offered an amendment that would clarify that certain provisions related to employment would apply only to public institutions. The bill was voted out of committee and referred to Rules committee for a vote before heading to the floor for debate.
General Laws took a vote on HB 971, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Knight, the modification of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act. This bill clarifies the definition of an athlete agent and puts into place penalties for bad acting agents taking advantage of student athletes. The University of Missouri has been supportive of this bill for several years. The bill will now be sent to Rules for another vote before heading to the floor for debate.
The Senate Committee on Professional Registration heard the senate version of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act, SB 263 sponsored by Senator Sandy Crawford. University of Missouri testified in favor of the legislation before the committee. The committee will likely take a vote on the bill next week.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Rules voted out HB 320, sponsored by Rep. Travis Fitzwater. This bill will require all public and charters schools in all school years to offer at least one computer science course and mandates that public institutions of higher education allow this course to count as a science or practical arts credit. Original bill language mandated the course be counted as a mathematics credit, which the University of Missouri System testified against, and was then subsequently removed.
House Bill 297, sponsored by Representative Wayne Wallingford, would create a mission statement for SEMO, is currently on the House Calendar awaiting debate. Throughout the week legislators added amendments related to higher education, including: tuition cap removal for public institutions, the informed students document act, computer science credits in higher education, and an amendment to allow the University of Missouri System to sell and convey land over a certain amount. The bill will likely be brought up on Monday and then sent to Legislative Review for the committee to examine and debate.
The House Budget Committee met Thursday for mark-up on the state operating budget and voted not to fund Medicaid expansion approved by voters last fall. House Budget Chairman, Cody Smith, told his Committee that he would be filing a new appropriations bill, House Bill 21, that will appropriate the General Revenue funds that would have been expended pursuant to HB 20, had it passed.
Chairman Smith enforced the rule of the Missouri House that calls for an offsetting cut in spending in the current bills before new spending can be offered in appropriations bills. The rule enforcement effectively curtails many new spending attempts by House Budget Committee members.
Specific to the University, the Chairman rolled the $3 million for NextGen Precision Health into the core, while maintaining the current core funding levels.
The Chairman recommended the General Revenue funding for the workforce training program MoExcels be reduced by $19.3 million, citing a potential use of upcoming federal funding in place of General Revenue, although this funding is still unclear. The chairman suggested continuing the funding of two programs in progress at Ozarks Technical Community College and Harris-Stowe State University but reducing funding for all other programs slotted for the FY 2021 budget.
Additionally, the Chairman included an amendment to decrease the suggested amount of $430,000 one time funding for the Pesticide Application Training and Certification program offered by the University of Missouri-Extension. This program is currently required to update their training or the EPA will take the program over, and Rep. Done Rone, along with numerous farm commodity groups, the Department of Ag and MU Extension have worked together on HB 1125 to make those updates and this one time funding would help to bring our current training program up to standard and provide an option for online training. This would allow for more efficient and accessible training for many Missouri farmers. The Chairman mentioned in his comments that he thought there might be some one time federal funding for this item, although again, that is still unclear.