Utah Legislative Session, Week Two
Monday, Feb. 08, 2010
The second week of the 2010 Utah State Legislative Session started with the House and the Senate adopting S.B. 1, the State Agency and Higher Education Base Budget Bill, a budgetary starting point for the next fiscal year (FY2011). This bill sets the base from which appropriations subcommittees can expect to operate for the year going forward, but is not the final budget numbers from this session. The bill that was adopted included an ongoing 2 percent reduction in addition to the 17 percent base budget reduction from last legislative session. It is important to emphasize that this is merely a starting point and legislative leadership explains that, if budgetary revenues are sufficient, funds will likely be added back to priority areas, including higher education.
There has been no further action on the proposed 4 percent FY2010 cuts or the 5 percent FY2011 cuts, and legislative leaders continue to meet with Gov. Herbert to negotiate budgetary outcomes. The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduling meetings for the week of Feb. 8, and we expect that preliminary budget plans will be discussed. However, the actual revenue numbers will not be available until Feb. 16 when we will have a better idea of the reality of potential cuts. Until the revenue numbers are announced, these base budget and other proposed reductions are used as contingencies for possible revenue shortfalls.
We also continue to monitor the activities of the Capital Facilities Appropriations Subcommittee. Several presentations were made before this subcommittee for new state-funded buildings, privately donated funds for buildings, and “land banking” proposals to acquire valuable land around institutions’ campuses. Due to economic conditions, members the Subcommittee are uncertain as to the availability of funds or bonds for these projects, and they emphasized that there may be no funds available for operations and management (O&M) for privately funded buildings requesting approval during this session. Warnings were given to institutions seeking approval and forgoing O&M this year that these projects may never be eligible for future state-funded O&M. Sen. Niederhauser has sponsored a bill, S.B. 35, to release the state bond funds for the USU College of Agriculture building. We are closely tracking this bill and we are working with legislators who are seeking creative options to get buildings funded.
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) works with the legislative representatives to track legislative bills on a semi-weekly basis. Below is a list of some of the legislation that USHE is tracking along with USU:
- HB 107, Animal Shelter Amendments, by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, changes provisions related to animal shelters’ providing animals to higher education institutions for research or educational purposes. Referred to Natural Resource and Agriculture and Environment Committee.
- HB 114, Disclosure of Donations, by Rep. Carl Wimmer, would require higher education institutions to annually disclose to the Board of Regents donations or gifts of $50,000 or more from foreign persons based on their physical address.
- HB 134, Education Donation Tax Credit, by Rep. Evan Vickers, creates a non-refundable tax credit for donations to public K-12 and higher education institutions.
- HB 194, Grants for Math Teacher Training, by Rep. Brad Last, provides the State Office of Education $250,000 to use for grants to public or non-profit higher education institution to provide math teaching training to individuals who are not currently teachers but who have already earned a bachelor’s degree.
- HB 215*, PEHP Amendments, by Rep. Kevin Garn, broadens the eligibility for higher education institutions with fewer than 18,000 FTEs to allow them to participate in the state risk pool for PEHP health insurance. Retirement Committee approved unanimously; now goes to House for a vote.
- SB 35*, Capital Facilities Bonds Amendments, by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, allows the USU Agriculture Science Classroom Building and the ARS federal building to move forward as separate buildings — one funded by the state and the other by the federal government.
- SB 42, 43 & 94 Retirement Amendments, by Sen. Dan Liljenquist, is a package of bills to make some dramatic changes to the State Retirement System, effecting future retirees. While the goals are sustainability, the impacts may be far-reaching. Approximately one-third of higher education employees participate in this system. We are tracking this closely to explain any possible effects on our faculty and staff.
- SB52, State Board of Regents Amendments, by Sen. Dennis Stowell, would require [the] governor, when appointing board members, as vacancies occur, to appoint at least one member from every county where a credit-granting institution is located. Sen. Stowell’s major concern is greater representation from rural areas of the state. The Governor’s Office is working with Sen. Stowell on a compromise.
- SB 55, Authorization of Charter Schools by Higher Education Institutions, by Sen. Stuart Adams, would allow college and university boards of trustees, at their option, to authorize charter public schools. Senate Education Committee approved and will now be considered by the Senate.
- SB 69*, College of Eastern Utah Affiliation with USU, by Sen. David Hinkins, was introduced this week. It will be heard in the Senate Education Committee this coming week. This is the bill that implements the actions taken by the Board of Regents.
- SB 95(S1)*, UESP Amendments, by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, makes technical and housekeeping amendments to statutes governing UESP. Passed Senate a week ago; is waiting for consideration by the House.
- SB 132*, Higher Education Scholarship Amendments, by Sen. John Valentine, tightens eligibility for the New Century Scholarship program and makes technical changes to it and to the Regents’ Scholarship. The major changes to New Century are adding, effective next year, a requirement for a 3.5 high school GPA, and requiring that associate degrees be completed by the date of high school graduation. The bill was heard and unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee on Friday, and now will be considered by Senate.
*USHE has taken an official position in support
To learn more about the Utah Legislature and specific bills, visit: http://le.state.ut.us/. For the governor’s Web site, visit: http://www.utah.gov/governor/index.html. To find your state senator and representative, visit: http://le.state.ut.us/GIS/findDistrict.jsp. You may also contact Michael Kennedy, vice president for Federal and State Relations, with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislative updates are also available from the USHE site.