2012 Utah Legislative Session Underway
Monday, Jan. 30, 2012
Throughout the legislative session, Neil Abercrombie, Utah State University’s director of government relations, will provide updates on the important business of the past week. Information is provides by Abercrombie and Dave Buhler, associate commissioner for public affairs with the Utah System of Higher Education.
Below is the first submission that takes a look at week one.
This is the first weekly report for 2012 on the legislative session from the perspective of the Utah System of Higher Education.
Overview. The 2012 session of the Utah State Legislature got underway Monday, Jan. 23, and will conclude Thursday, March 8. There will be a number of bills considered impacting the Utah System of Higher Education, all of which will be carefully tracked by the Commissioner’s Office and institutions.
On day two of the 2012 session the Utah Legislature welcomed 34 Utah State University students to Capitol Hill to present their research along with other undergraduate students from the University of Utah. This marks the 12th consecutive year of undergraduate students from the state’s two research institutions presenting during the Legislative Session. USU students displayed posters of their cutting-edge research to legislators in the Capitol rotunda throughout the day.
2012-2013 Budget. For the first time since 2008, the Legislature convened with significant revenue growth. According to December revenue estimates, the state will have an on-going increase of $280 million for the General Fund and Education Funds (combined) over 2010-11, an increase of approximately 6 percent. The revenue estimate also includes surplus funds (one-time money) of $128 million. Thus for the first time in four years the session opened without the threat of base-budget cuts.
The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee met twice this first week, leading out with Dr. Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School on his theory of Disruptive Innovation as it relates to higher education and hearing from others described as innovators from the private sector. On Thursday [Jan. 26] the Legislative Fiscal Analyst recommended $1.9 million in one-time funds for the Higher Education Technology Initiative (HETI), $1.5 million in one-time funds for Success Stipends (need-based financial aid), and $1.7 million in on-going funds for the Regents’ Scholarship. USHE officials will begin testifying to the subcommittee on Monday [Jan. 30].
Capital Budget. The Infrastructure and General Government Subcommittee heard presentations on non-state funded projects on Tuesday [Jan. 24], and Friday [Jan. 27] on capital projects for state funding. Regent Bob Marquardt, Commissioner Bill Sederburg, Associate Commissioner Greg Stauffer, University of Utah President-elect David Pershing, Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland, Utah State University President Stan Albrecht, USU-Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson, and Weber State University Vice President Norm Tarbox all presented before the committee.
- President Albrecht presented on the proposed USU academic building on the Brigham City campus. This proposed project is for a 60,000 square feet building that will accommodate phase I of the USU move to the newly acquired 40 acres of land in downtown Brigham City. The legislative request is for $7.5 million, which will be matched by $7.5 million from Brigham City.
- Chancellor Joe Peterson presented on the proposed arts and education building for USU-Eastern. This project will demolish the existing Geary Theatre, Music Buildings, and SAC and construct a new Arts and Education Building at USU-Eastern. This new building would cost $23.7 million.
For more information on these USU specific proposals or other capital facility requests this year please review the Utah State Building Board Five Year Building Program.
Key Legislation of Interest to USHE
- HB 4, Higher Education Base Budget* by Rep. Mike Morley, appropriates the base budget for all of the Utah System of Higher Education at the same level as 2011-12. It is expected that later in the session a supplemental bill will be passed to build upon that base. The bill is on the House 3rd Reading Calendar and is expected to be passed early this week.
- HB 12, Corrections Education Amendments* by Rep. Bill Wright, clarifies that the Board of Regents has a collaborative role but not responsibility for education of prison inmates. It passed the House on Tuesday 65-0, and was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, 5-0. It now goes to the full Senate.
- HB 19, State Issued Identification Numbers by Rep. Wayne Harper, may prohibit the use of Social Security numbers or other nine-digit numbers by higher education. We understand that the bill is being re-drafted and we are hopeful that the next version will not have an adverse impact on higher education operations.
- HB 24 S1, Health Insurance for School Districts by Rep. Jim Bird, would require school districts and higher education institutions to bid health insurance services every three years. Higher Education has serious concerns about the short-time frame required for bids and other provisions. The bill was circled Friday [Jan. 27] on the floor of the House.
- HB 49, Firearms Revisions by Rep Paul Ray, modifies laws related to the open carry of firearms. Institutions are working with the sponsor to address Higher Education concerns. It is scheduled to be considered by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday [Jan. 30] at 2 p.m.
- HB 53S1, Utah Education Network Amendments* by Rep. Ronda Menlove, modifies the governance of UEN by establishing a new steering committee with new authority and representatives from Higher Education, Public Education and the Governor. It was approved (10-1) by the House Education Committee on Jan. 23, and is on the House floor.
- HB 65, College and Career Counseling for High School Students by Rep. Patrice Arent, creates a pilot program to provide internships for graduate students to augment high school counselors. It was approved by the House Education Committee on Friday (10-1) and now goes to the full House.
- HB 256, Retirement Modifications by Rep. Don Ipson, modifies the time-frames for filing disability claims. It has been referred to the House Retirement Committee.
- HB 284, Higher Education Governance** by Rep. John Dougall, would be the most significant change in higher education governance since 1969, changing the Board of Regents to a coordinating board with a variety of negative consequences. It may be heard in the House Education Committee this week.
- HB 285, Repeal of Higher Education Tuition Assistance Program* by Rep. Steve Eliason, was requested by the Commissioner’s Office to repeal the “UTAP” program established by the Legislature years ago but never adequately funded. USHE objective is to have the program money (about $36,000) added to Success Stipends. It is awaiting a committee hearing.
- SB 10, College and Career Readiness Amendments* by Sen. Margaret Dayton, modifies testing of public and charter school students from UPASS to the ACT. Passed the Senate on Wednesday [Jan. 25], 28-0, and the House Education Committee on Friday [Jan. 27] 12-0. It now goes to the House but final passage will likely be delayed until a $2 million fiscal note is funded.
- SB 39, Gubernatorial Authority over Higher Education Officials by Sen. Stuart Reid, leaves appointment of the Commissioner of Higher Education to the Board of Regents but adds the requirement of concurrence by the Governor and Senate Confirmation. It also gives the Governor the power to terminate the Commissioner after consultation with the Board of Regents (the Board retains that power unilaterally). Similar changes are made for the UCAT President. The Governor’s office has expressed support for the bill. It passed the Senate on Friday [Jan. 27], 23-2, and now goes to the House.
- SB 44, GI Bill Tuition Gap Coverage, by Sen. Luz Robles, requires USHE institutions to provide a tuition waiver for students who have received Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits but have not completed their bachelor’s degree. It has not yet been heard in Committee.
- SB 114, Contesting Public Procurements, by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, amends procedures for contesting procurement by state agencies and USHE. It is being held in the Senate Government Operations Committee for possible amendments.
* USHE has taken an official position in support; ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition.
Please contact Neil Abercrombie, USU director of Government Relations, with questions specific to USU’s 2012 legislative priorities or developments during the session, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, for more frequent updates follow USU’s Government Relations on Twitter.
More information on legislation and committee agendas — or to view or listen to floor debates — is available online.