The Executive Appropriations Committee approved its first round of funding items on Friday evening. For higher education, initial items include the state-funded portion of a 2% merit increase in compensation (plus funding for increases in health benefits), $5 million ongoing for market demand programs, $5 million in one-time funds for performance funding, and $8.8 in one-time funds for the Regents’ Scholarship – enough for a full award for this year’s projected recipients. Access and Affordability was not funded by the Legislature.
2016-2017 Capital Development
Four of the Regents’ capital development priorities were approved: the CTE Center at Westpointe (SLCC), the New Business Building (SUU), the Performing Arts Center (UVU), and the Biological Sciences Buildings (USU). Funding for the buildings at UVU and USU will be phased in over two years. Finally, $4 million was approved for the Science Building at Snow College due to cost adjustments from the state’s Division of Facilities and Construction Management. Efforts continue this week as the budget gets finalized and bills continue their march to the end of the Legislative Session at midnight Thursday, March 10, 2016. Recent news on the budget is available from the Salt Lake Tribune.
*HB 216, Utah Educational Savings Plan Amendments by Rep. Stewart Barlow. This bill amends the Utah Uniform Probate Code so that custodial property is created and a transfer is made when contributions are made into a custodial account at the Utah Educational Savings Plan. This unanimously passed the House and Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature.
*HB 254, Resident Student Tuition Amendments by Rep. Marie Poulson makes a technical change so thatUSHE institutions may grant resident tuition status to military servicemembers and their immediate family members who may be assigned out of state who maintain domicile in Utah. The bill received unanimous support by the Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature for enrolling.
**HB 262, Campus Anti-Harassment Act by Rep. Kim Coleman defines discriminatory harassment and stipulates that an institution of higher education must take action against discriminatory harassment immediately after gaining knowledge of the act. USHE institutions, the Commissioner’s Office, and the Attorney General’s office have concerns regarding the bill’s legality, the increased legal liability and increased costs of implementation. The bill was initially considered by the House Judiciary Committee, it is not expected to pass but will likely be further discussed in the interim.
**HB 337 1st Sub., Student Right to Active Counsel by Rep. Kim Coleman requires notification of right of counsel for all disciplinary meetings between a student and individual from a higher ed institution. Serious concerns exist regarding the increased staffing costs and increase in litigation due to the several types of damages a court may award. Legal counsel from several institutions met with Rep. Coleman to explore possible solutions. The bill was initially considered by the House Judiciary Committee but is scheduled for further committee consideration this week.
HB 353, Institutions of Higher Education Disclosure Provisions by Rep. Kim Coleman requires institutions of higher education to disclose information including rates of completion, job placement, wage earnings for each academic program. It also requires notification and acknowledgement of all students as they enroll. A substitute bill is anticipated that would leverage the current data available at higheredutah.org for use in the course catalogs of USHE institutions.
**HB 365, Campus Free Expression Act by Rep. Kim Coleman creates requirements for USHE institutions related to free speech activity. The legislation replicates best practices regarding free-speech already in place at USHE institutions, but adds a private right of action that would add unnecessary administrative and litigation costs. The bill was initially scheduled for consideration by the House Judiciary, it is not expected to pass but will likely be discussed during the interim.
*HB379, Interstate Reciprocity Agreement for Postsecondary Distance Education by Rep. Val Peterson authorizes the State Board of Regents to execute an interstate reciprocity agreement on behalf of higher education institutions in Utah. This would enable Utah to become an approved state by the National Council on State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, of which 37 states are already members. This voluntary consortium expands access to distance education courses, establishes standards of quality and reduces overall costs to administering online programs outside the state. This bill passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
*HB 410, Military Tuition Waiver Amendments by Rep. Curt Oda authorizes the use of partial tuition waivers. This allows for more efficient allocation of available tuition waivers. In particular, this will assist eligible military to receive partial tuition waivers to supplement other available federal aid options from the state and federal government. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
**HB 432 1st Sub., Government Nonprofit Entity Compliance Amendments by Rep. Kim Coleman provides that governmental nonprofit entities would be subject to the Open and Public Meetings Act, the Government Records Access and Management Act, and the Accounting Reports. USHE institutions have several nonprofit private-public partnerships that would unduly be subject to these requirements. The bill was sent to the House Rules Committee upon vote of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
*SB 166, Utah Science, Technology and Research Modification by Sen. Ann Millner rewrites provisions relating to USTAR, its governing authority and funding, modifies powers and duties of governing authority, reporting requirements, researchers, and USTAR buildings, provisions related to audit of USTAR report, repeals provisions relating to technology outreach innovation program. This bill was passed unanimously by the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee and awaits further consideration by the House.
SB 188 1st Sub., Higher Education Capital Facilities by Sen. Stephen Urquhart creates the Higher Education Capital Facilities Account to fund higher education buildings. The bill defines how funds will accrue and how they will be distributed to USHE institutions in association with Performance Funding. The bill defines the role of the Board of Regents in approving USHE capital development projects. A second substitute bill is expected to be considered by the Senate this week.
SB 204, Free Market Protection and Privatization Board Act Amendments by Sen. Howard Stephenson places higher education institutions under review authority of the board despite existing oversight performed by the Board of Regents relating to free market activities of USHE institutions. The bill was passed favorably by the Senate and awaits consideration by the House.