With a month remaining in the state’s legislative session, I wanted to give you an update on our work with the Missouri General Assembly.
Focus on the budget
We have spent an enormous amount of time working with our elected leaders on appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year.
You will recall that due to a revenue gap for the state, Governor Greitens’ budget recommendations for fiscal year 2018 included an $8.2 million reduction to our core operating appropriation. Governor Greitens also recommended that appropriations designated for higher education projects, including our collaborative mechanical engineering program, be eliminated from the budget.
Last week the House of Representatives passed its budget. This budget includes approximately $2.1 million more than the Governor’s recommendations in our operating appropriation. It also includes $1 million — half of last year’s total — for the collaborative mechanical engineering program. Our southwest Missouri members in the House worked very hard to reduce the impact that the state’s budget gap will have on Missouri State University. I want to thank Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, chair of the House Budget Committee, in particular for his strong leadership.
The Senate will immediately begin to work on the budget. We have already met with our local senators and the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to advocate for additional funding.
We will continue to monitor the budget process, meet with our elected representatives and work to achieve the best possible budget position given the state’s revenue situation.
Legislation on degree offerings
We have also worked this year on legislation that would create a pathway for Missouri State to expand its professional doctorate degree offerings.
You will recall that I was part of a task force that met throughout the past year to resolve several concerns about the state’s academic program approval process. This task force reached a consensus solution to many concerns, and all public universities and community colleges agreed to support the final report from that task force. Removal of the statutes currently limiting Missouri State’s ability to offer professional doctorate programs was one of the solutions recommended in the report.
Two bills were filed this year to implement the task force recommendations — one bill was filed in the House and the other in the Senate.
I am pleased to report that the House passed one of these bills by a vote of 141 to 5. Our southwest Missouri members of the House of Representatives were very supportive. I want to thank Rep. Kevin Austin and Rep. Steve Cookson for leading the charge to get this bill passed in the House.
The Senate has debated the other bill but not yet passed it. We remain actively engaged with our senators, and we are continuing to advocate for the passage of this important legislation.
Other important legislation
We have been engaged on other legislation throughout the session as well. Many of the bills we opposed last year (e.g., limitations on ability to bond, elimination of student health fees, etc.) have not been debated this year.
Last year we addressed multiple bills that would have drastically reduced the Board of Governors’ ability to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. Similar bills were dormant this year until a few weeks ago when one House bill gained modest momentum. This bill would authorize permit holders to possess firearms on university campuses and in several other areas where property owners may currently prohibit firearms. Unlike last year’s bills, this bill does not include any carve outs or exceptions for particular areas and situations on campus where firearms may be prohibited.
The House General Laws Committee held a hearing on the bill yesterday, and we testified in opposition. We have also met with the bill sponsor to advocate for the university on this bill. We will continue to monitor this legislation and work to ensure that our Board of Governors retains the ability to reasonably regulate firearms on campus.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!