Legislative Session 2015

Final Report of the 2014 Legislative General Session

Session Overview. With the 2014 legislative session over and the state budget finalized, the Utah Legislature has shown substantial commitment to the state’s public colleges and universities. Going into this year’s session, USHE’s universities and colleges were educating students for 27% less state tax funds per student than in 2008. After taking into account tuition with state tax funds, Utah universities and colleges have been spending $600 dollars less per full-time equivalent student. To achieve the statewide 66% goal supported by the Governor and the legislature, a significant increase in state support for higher education is required to expand capacity and ensure access and quality.

The increase in appropriations to USHE this legislative session is the culmination of a year of hard work, coordination, and united support by Regents, Presidents, Trustees, staff, and legislative champions. These efforts were key in helping achieve such great success during the 2014 legislative session.

2014-2015 Budget. The legislature had significant new revenues available with an increase of $253 million and a slight increase in one-time revenue of $144 million. These revenues were slightly less than the growth in state tax revenues for the previous fiscal year (ongoing revenue was up $264 million, and one-time revenue was up $161 million).

The legislature made a significant commitment in support of public higher education. USHE received a compensation increase of 1.25%, along with additional funding to help cover healthcare and retirement cost increases. For mission-based funding, $50 million of the Regents’ $69.7 million request was funded for Acute Equity, which goes to SLCC ($15 million), UVU, WSU, DSU and the Regional Campuses of USU. Mission Based Funding Distinctive Mission was funded at $7 million. We will use our share of those funds ($800,000) for our Student Advising Pathway Project. Finally $1.5 million in one-time funds was appropriated to continue the performance-based funding initiative started last year.

Other appropriations include one-time funding to the popular Regents’ Scholarship ($3 million) as well as New Century Scholarship ($500,000) sufficient to fund the full award amounts. Ongoing funds were approved for the second part of funding for the Veterinary Science program at Utah State ($1.5 million), funding for graduate programs at Utah State University ($500,000 on-going and $500,000 one-time funds), implementation of the university mission at Dixie State ($2 million), and the Snow College Concurrent Enrollment Program ($1.3 million). Additional ongoing appropriations include the Dixie Crime Lab ($250,000), USHE college readiness initiative ($1 million), and Veterans Tuition Gap Coverage ($125,000). Other one-time appropriations include $500,000 for the USU Water Conservation program and $150,000 for the University of Utah Nursing Program. Significant funding was also provided for capital improvements, including nearly $4 million for projects at the College. The College will also receive additional new funding to help run the Small Business Development Center and Business Resource Center.

These appropriations amount to an overall USHE budget increase of 11.8%, a significant increase from last year’s 6.4%. The increase for SLCC was 25.8%. The Co-Chairs of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, Representative Keith Grover and Senator Stephen Urquhart, were instrumental in advocating the USHE budget priorities particularly during the final crucial days of the legislative session.

Capital Budget. Funding for two of the Regents’ top capital development priorities were approved by the legislature: $57.4 million for a new science building at Weber State University, and $26.5 million for instructional buildings on the Brigham City and Price (USU Eastern) Campuses of Utah State University. Intent language was adopted authorizing the University of Utah to proceed with design of the Crocker Science Building with donated funds.

Key Legislation of Interest to SLCC Approved by the Legislature

  • HB 32, College Credit for Veterans by Rep. Tim Cosgrove, modifies legislation passed in the 2013 Legislative session requiring student veterans to meet with a student advisor before the award of credit. New legislation requires USHE institutions to provide written notification to student veterans of the requirement to meet with a college counselor before being eligible to transfer college credit. The bill was endorsed by the Veterans Reintegration Taskforce during the interim.
  • HB 45, In-State Tuition for Military Service members and Veterans by Rep. Curt Oda, provides ability for military service members, veterans and their immediate family members to be considered a resident for in-state tuition purposes.
  • HB 72, Higher Education Grievance Procedure by Rep. Mark Wheatley, requires the Board of Regents to enact regulations pertaining to an employee grievance. The legislation requires sworn testimony for hearings related to employee demotions and terminations. The bill was amended to exclude faculty.
  • HB 92 (1st Sub.), Utah Telehealth and Education Network Amendments by Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, combines the functions of the Utah Education Network and the Utah Telehealth Network and the board membership of the Utah Education Network.
  • HB 405 (1st Sub.), Postsecondary School State Authorization by Rep. James Dunnigan, modifies requirements for proprietary colleges and universities and allows the Dept. of Commerce to enter into interstate reciprocity agreements on behalf of USHE, alleviating the requirement for institutions to individually enter into such agreements. This provides a more efficient and coordinated process for institutions to offer services in other states (e.g. distance education).
  • HB 426, Retirement Participation Amendments by Rep. Don Ipson, requires an entity to continue participation or withdraw in the Utah Retirement System by January 1, 2015. If an entity withdraws, it would be required to pay the actuarial and administrative costs. The sponsor amended the bill exempting higher education institutions.
  • SB 16, Veterans Tuition Gap Coverage by Sen. Luz Robles, provides state funded grants to qualifying military veterans who have maximized federal financial aid benefits.
  • SB 22 (2nd Sub.), Workforce Services Job Listing Amendments, by Sen. Peter Knudson, requires government entities to advertise job openings on the state website, jobs.utah.gov. The substitute bill excludes job postings for USHE faculty and student-related positions.
  • SB 34 (3rd Sub.), Governance of the Utah Education and Workforce Alliance by Sen. Howard Stephenson, initially proposed a multi-agency governing board for the Utah Futures and Utah Data Alliance initiatives, to be administered by the Utah Education Network. A substitute bill during the final hour of the session provided ongoing funds to the Utah Data Alliance and a study for further development of the Utah Futures application.
  • SB 38 (1st Sub.), Snow College Concurrent Education Program by Sen. Ralph Okerlund, establishes a program that requires Snow College to provide concurrent enrollments courses via interactive video to rural school districts under the direction of the Board of Regents.
  • SB 40 (1st Sub.) Financial and Economic Literacy Amendments by Sen. Pat Jones, requires an end of course assessment to the general financial literacy course required in high school. Course instruction specifically required information regarding the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • SB 62 (1st Sub.) Utah Science Technology and Research Governing Authority Amendments by Sen. Brian Shiozawa, makes changes to the governance and reporting requirements of USTAR in response to audit findings published in late 2013.
  • SB 68, Veterans Centers by Sen. Peter Knudson, requires the State Board of Regents to study the feasibility of providing a veteran’s center or veterans services at each USHE institution as well as develop a plan for implementing those services.
  • SB 150, Education Taskforce Reauthorization by Sen. Stuart Reid, reauthorizes the work of the Education Taskforce that was initiated in 2013.
  • SB 167, Regulation of Drones by Sen. Howard Stephenson, enacts regulations regarding the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles except in specified situations including research by higher education institutions for non-law enforcement activity.
  • SB 169, Public Meeting Materials Requirements by Sen. Deidre Henderson, requires public bodies to require an individual who publicly presents electronic information (e.g. PowerPoint presentations) at an open meeting to provide an electronic or hard copy of the electronic information.
  • SB 170 (1st Sub.), Education Loan Amendments by Senator Peter Knudson, would have modified the Utah Consumer Code in relation to student loans limiting garnishments related to student loans provided by private lenders. This bill replaces a previous version that would have negatively impacted USHE institutions as well as the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA).
  • SB 172, Capital Improvement and Capital Development Project Amendments by Sen. Wayne Harper, adds infrastructure to the definition of replacement cost of existing state facilities, and prohibits the design or construction of any new capital development projects until the legislature has appropriated a certain percentage of the replacement cost of existing state facilities and infrastructure to capital improvements.
  • SB 186, Contractor Licensing and Continuing Education Amendments by Sen. Wayne Harper, modifies the requirements for licensure as a contractor, allowing experience in any construction classification to count towards employment experience and adding a required 20-hour course of instruction.

Failed legislation

  • HB 161, Prohibition on Electronic Data Assistance by Rep Marc Roberts, prohibits cooperation between a federal agency that involuntarily collects electronic data and any political subdivisions of the state. The bill would have had significant negative implications on higher education’s ability to administer federal programs including federally guaranteed student loans, PELL grants, and the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • HB 345, Vending Services Operated by Blind Persons by Rep. Richard Greenwood, would have granted the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired the first right of refusal authority to establish a vending stand or food services enterprise in any public building or on any public property, for operation by a blind person, including 4-year higher education institutions. This would have had a negative impact on the competitive bidding process for 3rd party food service vendors at USHE institutions.
  • SB 80 (1st Sub.), Statewide Online Education Amendments by Sen. Howard Stephenson, would have allowed USHE institutions to offer a secondary school level course or a concurrent enrollment course through the Statewide Online Education Program operated by the Utah State Office of Education.
  • SB 151, Religious Freedom Instruction Requirements by Sen. Stuart Reid, would have required students, as part of an award of a bachelor’s degree, to demonstrate reasonable understanding of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including religious freedom.
  • SB 236, Higher Education Admissions Amendments by Senator Aaron Osmond, would have prohibited the use of certain academic performance criteria such as GPA and standardized test scores, in considering the admission of certain combat veterans or children of combat veterans to an institution of higher education. Sen. Osmond has agreed to withhold this legislation and allow USHE institutions to address concerns related to the admission of combat veterans without legislation.