The Legislature’s focus on tax reform continued this week until Thursday when efforts stopped and state leaders announced they will continue efforts beyond the legislative session over the coming months. On Friday, scheduled Executive Appropriations meetings to adopt a new budget were cancelled and lawmakers involved in designing the budget were reportedly expecting to work over the weekend on their plan of action. Reports indicate the legislature is considering one option to adopt a “scaled back” budget focused on “core” spending such as student enrollment growth and cost of living pay increases for employees. Another Executive Appropriations Committee meeting is scheduled early Monday morning.
Legislation of Interest
**HB 158, Higher Education Student Speech Rights by Rep. Kim Coleman, establishes a specific threshold that determines when student-on-student speech becomes harassment as opposed to protected speech. This legislation comes at the same time the US Department of Education is considering similar provisions in the coming months. Passage of this bill may prematurely put schools in conflict with anticipated federal definitions of harassment. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and the full House.
*HB 188 (1st sub), T.H. Bell Program Amendments by Rep. Lowry Snow, proposes to transition the T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan Program into a scholarship with a goal to increase the number of students entering education-related college programs. The Utah Council of Education Deans (comprised of deans who oversee teacher preparation programs in Utah’s colleges and universities) has worked closely with Rep. Snow over the interim and has endorsed the legislation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee Monday morning and passed the first vote in the senate awaiting final passage.
*HB 291 (1st Sub.), Concurrent Enrollment Modifications by Rep. Mike Winder clarifying legislation from the 2018 legislative session requiring the Board of Regents to establish policy, in coordination with higher education concurrent enrollment directors, that defines the qualifications to be an eligible concurrent enrollment instructor. Current instructors for the 2017-18 academic years will continue to be eligible regardless of qualifications. The bill was substituted to address concerns raised by both public and higher education. The bill received unanimous support of the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
HB 346, Higher Education Responses to Allegations by Rep. Kim Coleman, outlines circumstances when an institution turns information over to law enforcement in instances considered an articulable and significant threat to campus safety. The bill also mandates that colleges offer amnesty from conduct-code violations for students, which USHE institutions already have in policy. The sponsor has worked during the interim with advocacy groups and USHE. The Board of Regents does not oppose the legislation and supports the sponsor’s efforts to address a critical component related to the overall campus safety issue. The bill received unanimous support of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
*HB 373 (2nd Sub.), Student Support Amendments by Rep. Steve Eliason, is a sweeping school safety bill. Part of the bill removes the matching funds requirement for the adoption of the SafeUT mobile application by USHE institutions. All USHE institutions adopted use of the SafeUT app as part of the Board of Regents’ recommendations on student mental health. The bill received unanimous support of the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
HB 442, Family Leave Amendments by Rep. Elizabeth Weight, requires public higher education institutions, along with state agencies, to offer paid parental leave to eligible employees. The University of Utah and Utah Valley University have adopted family leave policies in the few months. The bill awaits a House Committee hearing.
HB 454, Tuition Waiver and Scholarship Study by Rep. Melissa Ballard, requires the State Board of Regents to study and report on outcomes of state scholarship and waiver programs including student retention, completion and participation in Utah’s workforce. The bill awaits consideration by the House Education Committee.
*HB 488, Amendments to Concurrent Enrollment by Rep. Eric Hutchings, enables the State Board of Regents to annually approve a prioritized list of upper division concurrent enrollment courses. It also changes the formula for increasing funding for concurrent enrollment from proportional growth in K-12 to only growth in concurrent enrollment.
*SB 260 (3rd Sub.), Access Utah Promise Scholarship by Rep. Derrin Owens creates a statewide scholarship program patterned after Dream Weber and SLCC Promise. These innovative programs, which pay the remaining college costs for qualifying students when federal grants fall short, are showing compelling results: Dream Weber students graduate college at significantly higher rates than non-Dream Weber students at Weber State University (73 percent to 44 percent, respectively). The scholarship would be available not only for students right out of high school, but adult learners as well at both USHE and UTECH institutions. Modifications were made to the bill, leaving intact the Regents’ and New Century Scholarships. This bill received unanimous support of the Senate Education Committee and awaits a vote of the full Senate.
*SB 102 (1st Sub.), Higher Education Capital Facilities by Sen. Ann Millner, would create capital development project funds for state colleges and universities and another for technical colleges. It would also establish criteria for project funding. Currently, colleges and universities submit building proposals to the Utah Board of Regents. The Regents prioritize the requests, and their list is proposed to the State Building Board, then to Legislature’s Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, and ultimately to the full legislature. The goal of the bill is to appropriate colleges and universities funding for cost-effective building planning and design, and while maintaining oversight for final approval of state funded construction. This bill received unanimous support of the House Education Committee and awaits consideration of the full House.
*SB 164, Student Data Privacy Amendments by Sen. Jacob Anderegg, eliminates the requirement for individual parental consent for student information to be shared from K-12 schools to the Utah State Board of Regents for purposes of outreach and access. This barrier has led to significant challenges in student recruiting and outreach due to legislative action adopted three years ago. These barriers are recognized frustrations by both higher education and K-12 leaders. The bill received unanimous support of the House Education Committee and awaits consideration of the full House.
* USHE has taken an official position in support; ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition. For more information on legislation, committee agendas, or to view or listen to floor debates, see: http://le.utah.gov/