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Special Report on the
2008 Legislative Session

March 2008

The 2008 Utah legislative session was a difficult one for higher education as well as other state agencies. There were some helpful developments, set against the backdrop of a strong but clearly slowing state economy. The biggest winners in terms of funding increases were public education and highways.

For higher education, the Legislature provided ongoing funding increases for salaries, health care benefits, fuel and power, operation and maintenance of new facilities, audit staffing, prison education, information technology, the Utah Education Network, institutional partnerships, the Medical Education Council, and student financial aid. One-time funds were appropriated for Information Technology (IT) equipment and software, student financial aid, the Engineering Initiative, and USTAR, among other things. Capital construction funding was approved for the new Utah Museum of Natural History building. Details are provided in what follows for appropriations specific to the University of Utah.


Overall Funding Change. The University’s ongoing tax-based state funding was increased by $9.94 million or 3.9 percent. That, plus a modest amount of funding that will come to the University through allocations made by the regents, will bring the total increase in ongoing funding to 4 percent.

Compensation. The Legislature provided funding for a 3 percent increase in compensation for all faculty and staff paid from state funds, consisting of a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for all employees and 1 percent funding for merit. The Legislature also provided support to offset increases in the cost of the University’s health insurance premiums.

Fuel and Power. The Legislature appropriated $94,600 in ongoing funds to cover the increased cost of fuel and power projected for 2008-09.

Operation and Maintenance. The University will be opening new facilities in 2008-09. The Legislature provided ongoing funding of $302,600 for operating and maintaining these facilities.

Engineering Initiative. The Legislature appropriated $250,000 in one-time funding to the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) for the Engineering Initiative. The Technology Initiative Advisory Committee, comprised of Utah industry representatives, will recommend to the regents how these funds should be distributed. In past years, the University has received a significant share of the available funds.

Institutional Partnerships. The University continues to explore and develop opportunities to partner with Dixie State College (DSC) in St. George. The Legislature appropriated $500,000 in ongoing funds in support of this effort. These funds will go to DSC to address critical infrastructure needs.

Student Financial Aid. The Legislature appropriated ongoing funding to the USHE of $400,000 for Regents Scholarships, $800,000 for New Century Scholarships, along with one-time funding of $459,700 for New Century Scholarships and $500,000 for the Regents Scholarship. University students will receive a share of these funds. In addition, USHE institutions have been directed to reallocate one-time money, taken from their non-lapsing fund balances, to their respective Utah Centennial Opportunity Program for Education (UCOPE) grant funds, an amount totaling $310,200 for the University.

Information Technology. The Legislature appropriated $900,000 in ongoing funds to the USHE for software licensing costs, along with one-time funding of $200,000 for network backbone equipment and $815,000 for IT security. The University will receive a share of these funds. In addition, the Legislature appropriated $200,000 in one-time funds to the Utah Education Network (UEN) to help cover content-management costs at the University.

USTAR. The Legislature appropriated $2.5 million in one-time funding for the USTAR program. The University and Utah State University will likely receive most of these funds.

Capital Funding. The Legislature appropriated $25 million in one-time funding for the construction of a new Utah Museum of Natural History. The new facility, which is being built with significant private and federal funds, along with the state support, will be located in Research Park. Ground-breaking is scheduled for this summer. The University also received approval to move ahead as resources permit with construction of these non-state funded buildings: Neuropsychiatric Institute expansion, Red Butte Garden Arboretum Visitors Center renovation and addition, northwest quadrant parking structure, and Huntsman Cancer Hospital expansion.

Tuition and Fees Increase. At their March meeting, the Regents approved a 3.5 percent increase in tier-one tuition for all USHE institutions. Combined with a 2.5 percent tier-two increase and fee increases averaging 5.38 percent, the cost of attending the University will increase by 5.91 percent in 2008-09. A portion of the revenue generated by the tuition increase will be used to match tax funds appropriated for the compensation increase. The rest will cover a variety of programmatic and staffing needs throughout the University.

 

Legislation of Interest to the University Community

Among the hundreds of bills filed this year, the USHE tracked dozens of them for possible impact on higher education. Here is a sampling.

HB 37, Utah Business Resource Centers Act
Sponsored by Representative David Clark, HB 37 provides for the establishment and administration of business resource centers by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). It had an ongoing appropriation of $805,000, of which $280,000 goes to the Regents for distribution. The bill was substituted and now appropriates $125,000 to GOED. Passed.

HB 76, Government Competition and Privatization Act
Sponsored by Representative Frank, HB 76 repeals the existing Privatization Policy Board and enacts the Government Competition and Privatization Act, creating the State Government Competition and Privatization Commission and requiring that local governments create a local government competition and privatization commission. Died in Rules Committee.

HB 86, Funding of Inmate Postsecondary Education
Sponsored by Representative Draxler, HB 86 provides an appropriation for existing inmate postsecondary education. This bill appropriated $1.5 million to the Board of Regents and was amended to exclude illegal immigrants. It was amended to provide $150,000. Passed.

HB 91, Center for the School of Future Incentives
Sponsored by Representative Draxler, HB 91 provides an appropriation for an incentive program for schools to use the services of the Center for the School of the Future at Utah State University. It appropriates $50,000 from the Education Fund for fiscal year 2008-09 to Utah State University. Died in Rules Committee.

HB 190 S1, State System of Higher Education Amendments
Sponsored by Representative Dougall, HB 190 makes far-reaching changes to the governance and operation of USHE. Representative David Clark made a successful motion to send the bill to interim study, but after amendments in the Senate, a bill (HB 490) creating a task force on governance died in the House.

HB 241, Repeal of Exemptions from Nonresident Tuition
Sponsored by Representative Donnelson, HB 241 modifies eligibility criteria for an exemption from the nonresident portion of total tuition at a state institution of higher education. The bill was amended to repeal tuition from students enrolled after 2010. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 253, Higher Education IT Infrastructure Funding
Sponsored by Representative Steve Clark, HB 253 provides an ongoing appropriation of $8 million to the State Board of Regents to update computer infrastructure. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate.

HB 269, Military Survivors Tuition Waiver Amendments
Sponsored by Representative Morley, HB 269 modifies the undergraduate tuition waiver approved in 2007 for surviving military dependents (includes state duty—federal duty was in the original bill) and sets the date beginning Sept. 11, 2001. Passed.

HB 271, Utah Purple Heart Recipients Tuition Act Amendments
Sponsored by Representative Barrus, HB 271 provides a graduate tuition waiver for Purple Heart recipients under specified conditions. Passed.

HB 284, Utah College of Applied Technology Revision
Sponsored by Representative Holdaway, HB 284 changes current statute regarding the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) campus of the Salt Lake/Tooele Applied Technology College (SLTATC). It removes SLTATC as one of the UCAT campuses and merges it with Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). A substituted bill would send SLTATC students in Salt Lake County to SLCC and Salt Lake County school districts, while SLTATC students in Tooele County would be served by the Davis ATC. The bill was heard on the House floor. Representative David Clark made a motion, which passed, to send the bill to interim study. After amendments in the Senate, a bill (HB 490) creating a task force on governance died in the House.

HB 343, Exemption of University Housing from Eviction Laws
Sponsored by Representative Neuenschwander, HB 343 permits an institution of higher education to exclude or evict a student from student housing, if the student has violated the student’s lease, without resorting to a judicial process. It also establishes procedures and due process requirements for the exclusion or eviction of a student from student housing. The bill passed the House. It was the final bill taken up by the Senate on the last night of the session but the clock struck twelve before a vote could be taken.

HB 381, Statewide College Degree
Sponsored by Representative Bigelow, HB 381 establishes one-time funding to support a pilot project with a USHE institution(s) to deliver low-cost associate’s degrees to students who would otherwise not access or participate in higher education. The bill did not pass.

HB 473, Firearms Amendments
Sponsored by Representative Oda, HB 473 provides a definition for a concealed firearm permit that allows, but does not require, the concealment of the firearm on the permittee; and makes certain technical changes. The bill passed the House with an amendment that exempted universities and colleges but it died in Senate Rules Committee.

SB 2, Public Education
As part of an omnibus bill dealing with K-12 public education, the Legislature created and funded the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Learning Program. This program is designed to enhance the social, emotional, academic, and arts learning of K-6 students by integrating arts teaching and learning into core subject areas. This program will have implications for the University’s College of Fine Arts and College of Education.

SB 36, Transparency in Government
Sponsored by Senator Wayne Niederhauser, SB 36 creates a public finance Web site for the purpose of providing public financial information. The bill creates the Utah Transparency Advisory Board which will advise the Division of Finance on the Web site and on what public financial information must be made available on the Internet. It will also develop plans, make recommendations, and evaluate the cost of implementing certain information resources on the Web site. The Board, in conjunction with the Division of Finance, has rule-making authority to determine what public financial information must be made available on the Web site. The sixth substitute passed.

SB 81, Illegal Immigration
Sponsored by Senator Hickman, SB 81 deals with provisions related to the immigration status of individuals within the state. The bill was amended to remove the provision regarding higher education. Passed.

SB 113, Access to Research Workers’ Personal Information
Sponsored by Senator Greg Bell, SB 113 provides that the name, addresses, and phone numbers of individuals who perform or provide supplies or services for scientific research using animals be classified as protected documents. Passed.

SB 180, Regents’ Scholarship
Sponsored by Senator Lyle Hillyard, SB 180 establishes a scholarship of $1,000 for Utah high school students who complete a rigorous course of study during grades 9-12 and earn at least a “B” average. It would include a match of up to $400 for a Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) account, an additional $1,000 for first-generation college students, and 75 percent paid tuition for two years of college when meeting ACT benchmarks and earning a high grade point average (3.5 GPA). The scholarship could be used at any USHE institution or other non-profit accredited institution in Utah. The bill passed but the Legislature appropriated just $400,000 of the estimated $7.5 million needed to fully fund the program. Especially if additional funding is forthcoming in the future, this program could have significant, positive effects on higher education participation rates.

For more information about specific bills, legislative membership, or committees, see the legislative Web site at http://legislature.utah.gov.

If you would like to become involved in the University of Utah’s Legislative Advocacy Program, go to www.alumni.utah.edu/advocacy.