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Posts Tagged ‘Missouri General Assembly’

The 2007 sale of MOHELA (the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority) was supposed to finance 31 capital improvement projects at colleges and universities around the state.

But there’s only about $120 million in MOHELA’s bank account, and Gov. Jay Nixon recently suspended funds for those projects (including MU’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center).

Now, Democratic Sen. Victor Callahan would like to use that money to fund only the projects that began before Jan. 1. The rest of the money would go toward a tuition reduction fund.

“Bottom line is, one way or another, what I think this legislature needs to understand is (that) higher education is getting beyond the grasp of the middle class,” Callahan said. “We have to make it affordable, and we have to take very affirmative steps, like a freeze in tuition rates, but also reducing tuition and making college affordable.”

But Nixon’s budget director, Linda Luebbering, said whatever money is left needs to be evaluated to “make sure that whatever (Callahan) is proposing is consistent with the amount of money that’s actually available.”

Read more from Missourian reporter Chris Dunn at ColumbiaMissourian.com.

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As today’s Missourian reports, the governor has reached an agreement with higher ed leaders across the state in which he will recommend state appropriations to remain at current levels. For their part, university leaders have pledged to refrain from increasing tuition.

But here’s the catch — this agreement means nothing without the support of the General Assembly. If legislators want, both the House and the Senate can amend Nixon’s proposal to reduce appropriations to colleges and universities, ultimately negating the agreement.

The General Assembly typically takes up the budget later in the legislative session, so for now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

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The Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a student lobbying group, has fought for years to pass legislation that would give the student representative to the UM System Board of Curators a vote on the board. And students in the group don’t want to give up fighting after Gov. Matt Blunt vetoed the bill last week.

ASUM met Saturday to discuss its strategy to lobby legislators to override the veto. That would take a two-thirds vote in both the Missouri House and Senate. This session, the Senate passed the bill 31-2 and the House passed it 100-47, which is seven votes short of a two-thirds majority after absent representatives are factored in.

The veto session begins Sept. 10, and so far the curator bill is the only one to be vetoed by Blunt. ASUM legislative director Ally Walker said via teleconference at the meeting that she wasn’t worried about getting a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but that Majority Leader Charlie Shields could potentially sit on the bill and keep it from being brought to the floor. Walker said she also wanted to speak with legislators that are outspoken against Blunt to keep them from shaking things up and rather have them look ahead at the task at hand.

“We need to move forward in a positive, pro-student way,” Walker said.

ASUM board chairman Craig Stevenson said he hopes to unite the Missouri Federation of College Republicans and the Young Democrats of Missouri to support the bill.

“I want to form a coalition to show this is not a partisan issue,” Stevenson said. “It’s a student issue.”

ASUM also plans to hold a student lobbying day at the Capitol, have letter-writing campaigns and create an official statement and response to Blunt’s veto, all in an effort to get the General Assembly to override the veto. Stevenson also created a Facebook group to promote awareness.

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The Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a student lobbying group, is meeting Saturday afternoon in Kansas City to discuss its strategy to override Gov. Matt Blunt’s veto of a bill on Wednesday. The bill would have given the student representative to the UM System Board of Curators a vote on the board, if Missouri lost a congressional district in the 2010 census.

There were lots of responses to Blunt’s vetoing of the bill. The curators voted in May to oppose the legislation, but student groups and the student curator himself were in favor of it. ASUM board chairman Craig Stevenson said UM System President Gary Forsee will be at the meeting. I’ll be following the lobbying efforts of ASUM as the students try to get the legislature to override the veto, and check to see whether the curators will be lobbying anymore against this bill.

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You won’t be able to see through the textbooks, but a bill signed by Gov. Matt Blunt on Wednesday aims to make the information more transparent.

The Textbook Transparency Act, sponsored by Rep. Jake Zimmerman, D-Olivette, will require textbook publishers to make all items in a textbook bundle available separately, and disclose the cost of the textbooks to professors. Before passing the bill, the Missouri Senate amended it to state that the textbook companies would disclose the prices at which they would sell it to the University Bookstore, not the suggested retail price.

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Chris Kelly, the democratic candidate for the 24th Missouri House district, said supporters of the university need to “throw down and fight” in the next legislative session. Kelly was invited to speak by the MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and discussed his plans for higher education in Missouri if he were elected.

Kelly spent 12 years in the Missouri House of Representatives, from 1983-1994.

“During that time I came to learn what it takes to make the university successful in the legislature,” he said. Kelly said a politically motivated faculty, a risk-taking administration and Board of Curators and a caring Alumni Association are all assets the university must have to find success in the state legislature.

Higher education funding, especially at MU, has spurred lots of scrutiny from faculty and staff in recent years.

Kelly said passing the Prepare to Care initiative, a plan to increase the number of medical jobs in mid-Missouri, would be one of his main goals in the General Assembly.

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