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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

For MSU, What The 2016 Legislative Session Did, and Did Not Do

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The Missouri Captiol building in Jefferson City. (Photo credit: jacob_shane via Flickr)

Late August is when many of the bills passed this session by the Missouri Legislature and signed into law by the governor go into effect. That could mean changes for state businesses and organizations.

For Missouri State University, more than half a dozen bills will require action on the school’s part to be in compliance with new law.

“There were probably several dozen bills that would impact higher education in one way or another that were filed, many of which got hearings and frankly many of which would not have advanced the cause of higher education, I think,” university president Clif Smart, states.  

But of the bills impacting higher education this session that were passed, many were supported by MSU, says Smart.

One of those is SB 921 which modifies several provisions of law relating to crime victims. For one, a school is now required enter into memorandums of understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement on procedures involving cases of sexual assault of a student on campus.

At MSU, which contracts with the Springfield Police Department for campus security, the practice is already in place. So while the new bill does not change its existing policy, officials will amend its agreement with SPD to reflect the new law.

Meanwhile, expansion of the Returning Heroes Act mandates a lower rate of tuition for veterans. While not opposed to the bill, MSU will “be advocating for the legislature as the statue allows to reimburse us the money the results from the lower tuition,” Smart says.  

As he told KSMU back in January, Smart was not in favor of bills to legalize the carry of guns on college campuses. There were at least five such bills this session, said Smart, none of which were passed. Constitution Carry, a measure that allows any adult who was legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry it without a permit, did pass. It was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and there will likely efforts by Republican lawmakers to override that ruling in September. The bill, however, does not change any existing campus rules.

Even though the campus gun law didn’t change, Smart said the school is evaluating adjustments to its policy.

“I think we’re gonna end up that we like where we are with maybe some expanded security measures.”

Among the accomplishments MSU experienced from this year’s legislative session was $3.6 million in additional funding after meeting all its performance criteria. The school was also able to keep undergraduate tuition levels where they are for the fall.

Meanwhile, some of the money in the new Fiscal Year 2017 budget is being withheld by the governor due to less than expected state revenue. While the hit to MSU is minimal compared to previous year’s budget withholdings, it does restrict $2 million from a planned renovation to Greenwood Lab School on campus.

“Frankly that was the project furthest away from starting… We’re still hopeful that that money will be released when we’ve raised our half of that privately.”

Smart adds that officials will be closely watching tax cut bills vetoed by Nixon this September during the veto session. The governor has cautioned that further budget restrictions might be necessary if the Legislature overrides those vetoes. According to Nixon, the breaks would reduce state revenues by more than $60 million a year.

Above, hear the full conversation with President Smart, part of the monthly KSMU program Engaging the Community.