2020 Legislative Update-Week 1

The 2020 Legislative Session got underway on Monday, January 27. On Tuesday, the Legislature repealed HB 185, the tax reform package it passed in December’s special legislative session. This action will impact this year’s budget in ways that are still unclear. We expect additional budget information, including FY21 budget revenue projections, in the coming week so legislative leaders can start building next year’s budget.

The Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee (HEAS) held an introductory meeting with a presentation by Chair Harris Simmons and Interim Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme reviewing the Board of Regents’ strategic priorities and current budget priorities. The Commissioner also introduced new budget summaries of the USHE institutions to aid the committee in understanding higher education finance.

There was a brief discussion at the end of Wednesday’s HEAS about expected legislation related to the governance of higher education in Utah and the consultant’s report presented to the Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission in November 2019. Legislation is expected early next week.

USHE institutions will be presenting at upcoming HEAS hearings:

February 4: Community Colleges (SLCC, Snow)
February 6: USHE Regional and Dual Mission Universities (UVU, DSU, WSU, SUU)
February 10: Research Universities (UU, USU)

Legislation of Interest:

HB 45, Veterans Education Amendments by Rep. Paul Ray eliminates inequities institutions face in awarding in-state tuition to only those discharged under Chapters 30 and 33 of the GI bill and eliminated the five-year limit since discharge for in-state tuition eligibility of immediate family members who use GI bill benefits. The bill also allows veterans using the Veterans Tuition Gap Program administered by the Board of Regents to receive funds for fees and books, along with tuition. This item is designed to help spend surplus funds appropriated for the program. The bill received unanimous support in the House and awaits Senate consideration.

HB 103, Utah Promise Scholarship Program Amendments by Rep. Derrin Owen makes technical changes to the Utah Promise Scholarship based on feedback from financial aid directors.This  corrects an unintended error in ensuring all other state aid be exhausted before tapping funds appropriated to this program, including waivers. The change puts needed flexibility in the use of waiver, with some controls, before state dollars are tapped under this scholarship. The bill is scheduled in the House Education Committee on Monday afternoon.

HB 132, 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. It may put schools in conflict with existing federal guidance and definitions of harassment. The bill is assigned to the House Education Committee.

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