2019 Legislative Update – Week 1

The 45-day 2019 Legislative Session commenced on Monday, January 28, 2019. With over 1,100 legislative bills filed, several are expected to impact Utah’s public colleges and universities. The early weeks of the session focus on the budget and capital development priorities; however, several pieces of legislation are up for consideration.

2019-20 Budget

According to the State’s consensus revenue estimates, the State has significantly more new ongoing revenue projected than last year, as well as some “one-time” budget surplus.

Total New Revenue Available (Education and General Funds):

 Ongoing RevenueOne-Time Revenue
General Fund$187m$67m
Education Fund$488m$579m
Total New Available$675m$646m

Updated revenue estimates are anticipated in mid-February.

Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

The Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee (HEAS) held an introductory meeting when Board of Regents Chair Harris Simmons and Commissioner Dave Buhler shared general background on key higher education issues. HEAS membership has changed significantly, with new Chairs and several first-year members in the House of Representatives.

The Committee is scheduled to meet twice next week, where it will review the Board of Regents Unified Budget Request. Presentations highlighting the Board’s top priority to fund a College Access Advisor for every high school in Utah will be heard in HEAS on February 5 as well as the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee on February 6 since the Utah State Board of Education has also endorsed the initiative.


Legislation of Interest

*HB 45, Higher Education Credit Amendments by Rep. Val Peterson, adopted by the Education Interim committee in October 2018, requires the Board of Regents to establish a plan for statewide prior learning (awarding of credit for prior learning, work-based skills, competency-based assessment, etc.). This “framework” supports the Regents’ priority to validate and ensure current statute and polices related to transfer of credit are being followed. Some of the plan’s requirements include: institutional plans for advising and communicating with USHE students and the public about credit for prior learning, how credit for prior learning is transferred between institutions, how it is transcripted, and institutional procedures for maintaining transparency and consistency. Each institution must report to the Board annually regarding the types of prior learning for which credit is provided and the total amount of credit for prior learning the institution awards.

HB 146, Concurrent Enrollment Amendments by Rep. Susan Pulsipher, modifies the eligibility requirements to enroll in concurrent enrollment courses in Utah from only 11-12 grade students to all grades in high school (grades 9-12). Over 36,000 students participated in concurrent enrollment courses last year, saving them over $48.7 million in future tuition expenses. Some institutions have raised concerns these changes would outstretch available resources to keep up with increased demand for college-level courses in high school. There is also a concern that many students in grades 9-10 are not prepared to tackle college courses. Exceptions for those students who are prepared are already allowed in current policy. The bill awaits its first committee hearing, scheduled for the afternoon of February 4.

*HB 188, T.H. Bell Program Amendments by Rep. Lowry Snow, proposes to transition the T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan Program into a scholarship with a goal to increase the number of students entering education-related college programs. The Utah Council of Education Deans (comprised of deans who oversee teacher preparation programs in Utah’s colleges and universities) has worked closely with Rep. Snow over the interim and has endorsed the legislation. The bill awaits its first committee hearing.

HB 158, Higher Education Student Speech Rights by Rep. Kim Coleman, establishes a specific threshold that determines when student-on-student speech becomes harassment as opposed to protected speech. The bill also protects belief-based student groups, allowing them to condition group membership on accepting and supporting closely-held beliefs. Institutions would be prohibited from discriminating against belief-based groups by either denying the groups official recognition and funding or by requiring the groups to maintain open membership. The bill awaits its first committee hearing.

*SB 102, Higher Education Capital Facilities by Sen. Ann Millner, would create capital development project funds for state colleges and universities and another for technical colleges. It would also establish criteria for project funding. Currently, colleges and universities submit building proposals to the Utah Board of Regents. The Regents prioritize the requests, and their list is proposed to the State Building Board, then to Legislature’s Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, and ultimately to the full legislature. The goal of SB 102 is to appropriate colleges and universities funding for cost-effective building planning and design, while maintaining oversight for final approval of state funded construction. SB 102 has moved to the full Senate for further consideration.


* USHE has taken an official position in support; ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition. For more information on legislation, committee agendas, or to view or listen to floor debates, see: http://le.utah.gov/