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.
*HB 182, Concurrent Enrollment Amendments by Rep. Val Peterson, is a joint effort with the Utah State Office of Education to clarify the statute relating to concurrent enrollment. The legislation primarily combines and clarifies several sections of statute to better defines the program, it creates a statewide participation form, and defines qualifications for teaching concurrent enrollment math courses. The bill passed both the House and Senate, and awaits the Governor’s signature.
*HB 216, Utah Educational Savings Plan Amendments by Rep. Stewart Barlow. This bill amends the Utah Uniform Probate Code so that custodial property is created and a transfer is made when contributions are made into a custodial account at the Utah Educational Savings Plan. This unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the Senate.
**HB 262, Campus Anti-Harassment Act by Rep. Kim Coleman defines discriminatory harassment and stipulates that an institution of higher education must take action against discriminatory harassment immediately after gaining knowledge of the act. USHE institutions, the Commissioner’s Office, and the Attorney General’s office have serious concerns regarding the bill’s legality, the increased legal liability and increased costs of implementation. The bill was considered by the House Judiciary Committee but no action was taken.
**HB 337 1st Sub., Student Right to Active Counsel by Rep. Kim Coleman requires notification of right of counsel for all disciplinary meetings between a student and individual from a higher ed institution. Serious concerns exist regarding the increased staffing costs and increase in litigation due to the several types of damages a court may award. Legal counsel from several institutions met with Rep. Coleman to explore possible solutions. The bill was considered by the House Judiciary Committee but no action was taken.
HB 353, Institutions of Higher Education Disclosure Provisions by Rep. Kim Coleman requires institutions of higher education to disclose information including rates of completion, job placement, wage earnings for each academic program. It also requires notification and acknowledgement of all students as they enroll. A substitute bill is anticipated that would remove the individual notification requirement and leverages the current data available at higheredutah.org for use in the course catalogs of USHE institutions.
**HB 365, Campus Free Expression Act by Rep. Kim Coleman creates requirements for USHE institutions related to free speech activity. The legislation replicates best practices regarding free-speech already in place at USHE institutions, but adds a private right of action that would add unnecessary administrative and litigation costs. The bill was scheduled for consideration by the House Judiciary and may be considered at a future committee.
**HB357, Longitudinal Data Management Act by Rep. Jacob Anderegg would remove current funding from USHE and the other members of the Utah Data Alliance (USOE, UEN, UCAT) to create the Utah Data Commission. Passage of this legislation would eliminate the resources to provide longitudinal data efforts such as the High School Feedback Report, Wage Information by Field of Study, Where USHE Graduates are Employed, and Remedial Math reports. The Commissioner’s Office is working with Rep. Anderegg on possible substitute language. The bill awaits assignment to a House committee.
*HB379, Interstate Reciprocity Agreement for Postsecondary Distance Education by Rep. Val Peterson authorizes the State Board of Regents to execute an interstate reciprocity agreement on behalf of higher education institutions in Utah. This would enable Utah to become an approved state by the National Council on State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, of which 37 states are already members. This voluntary consortium expands access to distance education courses, establishes national standards of quality and reduces overall costs to administering online programs outside the state. This bill awaits consideration by the House Education Committee.
HB 410, Military Tuition Waiver Amendments by Rep. Curt Oda authorizes the use of partial tuition waivers. This allows for more efficient allocation of available tuition waivers. In particular, this will assist eligible military to receive partial tuition waivers to supplement other available federal aid options from the state and federal government. The bill awaits consideration by a House Standing Committee.
*SB 166, Utah Science, Technology and Research Modification by Sen. Ann Millner rewrites provisions relating to USTAR, its governing authority and funding, modifies powers and duties of governing authority, reporting requirements, researchers, and USTAR buildings, provisions related to audit of USTAR report, repeals provisions relating to technology outreach innovation program. This bill was passed unanimously by Senate Education Committee and awaits further consideration by the Senate.
SB 188, Higher Education Capital Facilities by Sen. Stephen Urquhart creates the Higher Education Capital Facilities Account to fund higher education buildings. The bill defines how funds will accrue and how they will be distributed to USHE institutions in association with Performance Funding each year. The bill also defines the role of the Board of Regents in approving USHE capital development projects. A substitute bill is expected to be considered by the Senate Standing Committee on February 29, this week.
SB 204, Free Market Protection and Privatization Board Act Amendments by Sen.Howard Stephenson places higher education institutions under the review authority of the board despite the existing oversight performed by the Board of Regents relating to free market activities of higher education institutions. The bill was passed favorably by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee