Utah Legislative Session , Week 3
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010
The cut to higher education was about $6 million lower than what was proposed in December 2009 and will be largely covered by the 3 percent cost of living reduction mandated by Governor Herbert by executive order. In addition, each institution will have to absorb its share of approximately $650,000 restored to the New Century Scholarship (the Utah State University portion of this additional cut will be approximately $130,000). Because USU had already been implementing measures to make up for the governor’s 3 percent COLA reduction, this cut will be absorbed by actions like adjustments of quasi-endowments and the 5 percent voluntary pay cut by USU administration.
- 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. A closer reading of the bill presented a number of problems, including the need to know the citizenship of donors, a requirement to report all foreign donors if it was a “directed gift” and a requirement to determine the extent of foreign ownership of domestic corporations. Rep. Wimmer has agreed to amendments we proposed to address these issues. Bill and amendments will likely be voted on in the house Tuesday or Wednesday (Feb. 16, 17).
- 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 to allow them to participate in the state risk pool for PEHP health insurance. Passed the House Friday (Feb. 12), 71-0; now goes to the Senate.
- HJR 24, Resolution on Equal Treatment by Government, by Rep. Curtis Oda, is a proposed constitutional amendment promoted by national activist Ward Connerly who has advanced similar measures in other states to prevent certain types of affirmative action. Approved by House Law Enforcement Committee Friday (Feb. 12), 10-4, and is scheduled for a “time-certain” for a vote by the full House Tuesday (Feb. 16). It is unclear what impact, if any, this would have on higher education institutions.
- SB 35*, Capital Facilities Bonds Amendments, by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, allows the USU Agriculture Science Classroom Building to move forward as separate buildings — one funded by the federal government and the other by the state.
- 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. SBs 43 & 94 were approved by a vote of 3-2 by the Senate Retirement Committee Friday (Feb. 12); now goes to full Senate.
- SB52, State Board of Regents Amendments, by Sen. Dennis Stowell, would require changes in the composition of the Board of Regents to provide greater rural representation. 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. The Senate passed Wednesday (Feb. 10), 28-1; now goes to House.
- SB 69(S1)*, College of Eastern Utah Affiliation with USU, by Sen. David Hinkins, was unanimously approved on Thursday (Feb. 11) by the Senate Education Committee. Commissioner Sederburg and Presidents King and Albrecht spoke in favor of the bill. It now goes to the full Senate, with votes likely 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 Jan. 29, 22-0, and House Feb. 10, 69-0. Now goes to the governor for his signature.
- 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 is being held on the Senate floor for future consideration.