With revised revenue projections announced last week, significant budget decisions continue to loom before a final budget takes shape. There is still a lot of work on the budget as well as several bills that continue their march through the legislative process.
Legislation of Interest
HB 100, Institutions of Higher Education Disclosure Requirements by Rep. Kim Coleman requires institutions of higher education to disclose information including job placement, wage earnings and average student debt programs at USHE institutions. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits further consideration by the full Senate.
*HB 249 (1st Sub.), Higher Education Financial Literacy Amendments, by Rep. Robert Spendlove requires higher education to annually notify students who have taken out a loan for college directing them to their loan balance as well as a repayment calculator. The bill was approved by the House Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full House.
*HB 251, Campus Advocate Confidentiality Amendments, by Rep. Angela Romero prohibits the disclosure of confidential communications related to advocacy services at a Utah institution of higher education. The bill passed the House Judiciary committee and awaits consideration by the full House.
**HB 284, Student Right to Active Counsel, by Rep. Kim Coleman introduced similar legislation in the 2016 Session. The Legislature ultimately did not adopt the proposed legislation. In July 2016, the Board of Regents adopted policy that outlines required due process for disciplinary actions and included the role of active counsel in certain proceedings. This bill is unnecessary given the policy already adopted. The bill passed House Judiciary Committee awaiting consideration by the full House.
HB 326, Campus Sexual Violence Protection Act, by Rep. Kim Coleman allows an institution of higher education to report an allegation of sexual violence to a law enforcement agency and enacts other provisions related to the duties of an institution of higher education in circumstances related to sexual violence. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and awaits consideration by the full House.
**HB 334, Academic Freedom and Protection Act, by Rep. Kim Coleman prohibits a USHE institution from taking adverse action against faculty in retaliation for certain expression. Existing Regents’ policy and state and federal laws already provide due process and protect academic freedom. The bill awaits its first House Standing Committee hearing.
**HB 275, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act Amendments, by Rep. Brian Green removes the exemption for higher education from Administrative Rulemaking Act for policies related to students. Currently, there are almost 15,000 policies maintained by the Board of Regents and USHE institutions that would need to be reviewed and submitted for administrative rulemaking. The bill awaits its first House Standing Committee hearing.
*HCR 16, Concurrent Resolution Declaring Mental Health Issues To Be A Public Health Crisis At Utah Higher Education Institutions, by Rep. Ed Redd declares mental health issues to be a public health crisis at Utah higher education institutions. It strongly urges state agencies, local health authorities, non-profit groups, and higher education entities to seek productive, long-term solutions to address this crisis. The bill received unanimous support from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and awaits consideration of the full Senate.
*SB 35, Veterans Tuition Gap Program Act Amendments, by Sen. Escamilla amends the federal programs to which the Veterans Tuition Gap Program applies. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate and the House.
*SB 117 (1st Sub.), Performance Funding Revisions, by Sen. Ann Millner provides ongoing funding dedicated the performance outcomes proposed by the Board of Regents and adopted by the Legislature in 2015. The bill unanimously passed the Senate and awaits consideration by the House.
SB 238 (1st Sub.), Higher Education Governance Revisions, by Sen. Ann Millner changes the name of UCAT (to Utah System of Technical Colleges and of individual campuses to technical colleges) and makes several significant changes to the governance of public higher education in Utah. The legislation clarifies the roles and mission of the Board of Regents and Boards of Trustees and changes how Regents are appointed. The legislation also changes how new academic programs are approved, codifies how presidential searches are to be conducted, and defines the primary missions of USHE institutions. Amendments proposed by the Commissioner’s Office were included in the 1st Substitute which unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee, it now awaits action by the full Senate.
**SB 255, Funding for Education Systems Amendments, by Sen. Howard Stephenson would cap, until 2022, any additional revenues from the Education Fund (income tax) to the state higher education system. The mix of funds higher ed has been budgeted over the years varies between the Education Fund and the General Fund (Sales Tax) – the two primary funding sources of the state’s budget. In effect, higher education has been a balancing wheel between the two funds to help the legislature in balancing the budget. This restricts the legislature’s flexibility and would likely make it more difficult for the state to fund critical higher education needs over the next five years. This could also result in greater reliance on tuition. The bill awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
*SB 256, Regents Scholarship Amendments, by Sen. Lyle Hillyard makes major administrative changes to the scholarship program, after the high school graduating class of 2018, to improve the student application experience as well as enhance coordination with institutions the award recipients attend. This will ensure better use of state aid resources as well as create an overall better experience for students. This legislation does not alter or weaken the existing academic requirements for the scholarship. It also removes outdated language in the statute. The bill awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.