Utah State Legislature 2012 Report

The Governor and the Legislature demonstrated clear support for higher education and the University of Utah during the 2012 legislative session. Higher education received the first increase in state funding since 2008 which includes a 1 percent compensation increase. Thanks to the efforts of Interim President Lorris Betz and President Dave Pershing, the U also received much needed funding to replace our failing infrastructure.

Successes

There were many victories for the University of Utah this session and we appreciate the Legislature and the Governor for addressing many of our top priorities.

  • Effective this year, funding has been allocated to give a 1 percent compensation increase for higher education employees. 
  • A top priority for higher education was the need to fund specific initiatives at each institution while providing increased funding for significant student growth throughout the system. The Legislature appropriated $8 million, which will be evenly split between initiatives and growth.
  • The University of Utah received $22 million to begin replacing its failing infrastructure.  This appropriation, combined with a portion of the $30 million that was allocated for system-wide capital improvement projects, will allow us to complete all of our year-one infrastructure requirements. We will continue to work with the Legislature for the funding that will be required in subsequent years. 
  • The Legislature appropriated $2.5 million for the Engineering Initiative. This initiative has been amazingly successful and the increased funding will allow institutions of higher education to recruit faculty, strengthen articulation through remote delivery, and increase the number of scholarships for engineering students.
  • Over the past five years, the USTAR initiative has attracted world class researchers to the state and has brought in over $175 million in direct and indirect research funds. This initiative has been critical to the mission of the University of Utah and this year $6 million was appropriated to restore funding that had been cut over the past several years.
  • $500,000 in matching funds was appropriated for the math teacher training program throughout the state, including the University of Utah. 
  • $100,000 was appropriated to the University of Utah Center on Aging.

Several buildings were authorized by the legislature for the University of Utah including:

  • Authorization to construct the Student Life Center after raising $10 million. Thanks to statutory amendments now in place, the University can proceed with this much anticipated building.
  • Bonding authorization plus operations and maintenance funding to construct the new S.J. Quinney College of Law Building. This was the only building in the state to receive operation and maintenance approval this year.
  • Authorization to use $37.4 million in previously donated funds to construct a new dental school building.
  • Bonding authorization to expand the Orthopaedic Center.
  • Bonding authorization to expand the athletic center.
  • Bonding authorization to construct two parking structures: one near the HPER building and another for health sciences.

Legislation of Interest to the University Community with Outcomes

SB 39 (Reid): Gubernatorial Authority over Higher Education Officials
Modifies the hiring/firing process for the commissioner of higher education and president of the Utah College of Applied Technology. The board of regents will now appoint the Commissioner of Higher Education with the concurrence of the Governor and senate confirmation. The Governor can now terminate the commissioner after consultation with the board of regents.  Passed
 

SB 62 (Hillyard): Cigarette Tax Restricted Account Revisions
Instead of allocating a percentage of the shrinking cigarette tax account to the Department of Health, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and University of Utah Health Sciences Center, specific ongoing dollar amounts are now allocated to each. The Department of Health will receive $250,000, the Huntsman Cancer Institute will receive $2 million, and the Health Sciences Center will receive $2.8 million.  Passed
 

SB 153 2nd Sub. (Niederhauser): Procurement Amendments
M
akes substantial changes to the procurement code. All changes recommended by higher education were included in the bill.  Passed
 

SB 286 (Urquhart): College Readiness Assessment
Allocates $500,000 to the board of regents to develop and implement an online tool to assess the readiness of high school students to succeed in higher education and provide individualized remediation.  Passed 

SJR 22 (Reid): Joint Resolution on State Spending Limitations
Proposed amending the Utah Constitution to restrict new state spending, requiring a 60 percent majority vote in both houses to appropriate more money than the current year (adjusted for inflation/deflation and population growth).  Failed
 

HB 19 1st Sub. (Harper): State Issued Identification Numbers
The original bill would have prohibited the use of Social Security numbers or other nine-digit numbers by higher education. The substitute bill allows for phased out use of the nine-digit number if the government entity is redesigning its information technology system and there are cost-neutral ways to phase out the nine-digit number.  Passed
 

HB 24 1st Sub. (Bird): Health Insurance for School District
Would have required school districts and higher education institutions to bid health insurance services every three years.  Failed
 

HB 49 3rd Sub. (Ray): Firearms Revisions
Would have modified laws related to the open carry of firearms.  Failed
 

HB 53 1st Sub (Menlove): Utah Education Network Amendments
Creates a UEN governing board and gives that board the power to hire/fire an executive director.  Passed
 

HB 60 (Watkins): Proceeds from Federal Grants for Miners’ Hospital
Requires the University of Utah to report to an appropriations subcommittee on the use of money appropriated to the Miners’ Hospital.  Passed 

HB 94 (Anderson): Government Competition with Private Enterprise
Would have required a government entity (including higher education) to conduct a study and contact private enterprise before engaging in any commercial activity. Would have granted a private right of action to compel compliance.  Failed

HB 109 (Sanpei): Use of Controlled Substances in Research
Allows the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to grant licenses, under specified terms, to conduct research concerning Schedule 1 controlled substances.  Passed
 

HB 124 (Oda): In-state Tuition for Veterans
Makes it easier for recently discharged members of the military to obtain Utah residency for tuition purposes.  Passed
 

HB 284 (Dougall): Higher Education Governance
The original bill would have changed the board of regents to a coordinating board. This bill was substituted with entirely new text modifying the Regent’s Scholarship Program.  Failed
 

HB 322 1st Sub. (Herrod): Higher Education Tenure
Would have prohibited state institutions of higher education from offering an individual a tenure-track position on or after July 1, 2012.  Failed

For more information about specific bills, legislative membership, or committees, please visit the Utah Legislature here.

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