Thursday, April 30, 2009

Higher education conference committee begins; Bioscience grants available

Higher education conference committee meets
Conferees for the higher education bill met for the first time yesterday afternoon and walked through the differences between the House and Senate bills. Conferees also adopted language that is the same and similar in the two bills. Co-chairs Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, explained that they will conduct an open and inclusive process and asked for testimony from anyone with concerns on any of the provisions in either bill.

Some of the same or similar language that was adopted includes the course equivalency provision that directs the system to maintain course equivalency guides that include information on the course equivalency and awarding of credit for learning acquired as a result of the successful completion of formal military courses and occupational training. The system currently does this so it's already in compliance.

Another provision adopted yesterday is the language that encourages the Board of Trustees to place a priority on identifying and implementing measures to improve the human resources system used by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities in order to increase efficiencies and equity for faculty and staff.

And yet another provision adopted is the language that requires the Office of Higher Education to report to the Legislature on the implementation of textbook information requirements under federal code.

There was a lot of discussion on the state grant program and how each body and the governor packages the state grant surplus. Jacob Littler with MSCSA and Graeme Allen with MSUSA testified that using the state grant surplus to increase the living and miscellaneous expense, or LME, is the most equitable for students. No action was taken on any of the state grant provisions in the bill nor any finance related provisions.

The conference committee meets again today at 9:00 a.m. in room 118 of the Capitol to continue going through the bill. They are scheduled to recess at approximately 10:30 so the Senate can go into session and then reconvene at approximately 2:00 p.m.

Higher education institutions could be eligible for bioscience business infrastructure grants
A bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, that makes state colleges and universities eligible for bioscience business infrastructure grants, passed unanimously by the House yesterday and is headed to the governor. The Senate approved the bill March 5 by a vote 62-3.

The bill, HF 868/SF 684, makes the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities eligible to receive money under the state’s bioscience business development infrastructure program. The program, run by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, allows state general obligation bonds to be used for grants to cover capital costs for bioscience-related business facilities. Currently, only local governments are eligible for the grants. In addition, the bill would specify that local governments or institutions receiving grant money must pay for at least half of the cost of the completed project using non-state funds.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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