To:†††††††††††††††††† Board of Regents

 

From:†††††††††††††† Richard A. Crofts

Commissioner

 

Date:††††††††††††††† June 26, 2002

 

Subject:†††††††††† 2003 Legislative Agenda


Prior to each legislative session I review with the Board of Regents the statutory changes we have decided to pursue during the upcoming session.† In the past, we have done this review usually during the November meeting before the beginning of the session.

 

The last Legislature made changes in the statute dealing with Interim committees.† We are now expected to review with the appropriate Interim Committee the statutory changes we are interested in.† The last opportunity for us to review our interests with the Education and Local Government Interim Committee will be in September, prior to the September meeting of the Regents.† It is, therefore, necessary for us to review with the Regents the items of our interest at the July meeting.

 

Based upon the review, the Interim Committee may decide to request that a bill be drafted.† However, if the Interim Committee chooses not to do that we are not precluded from pursuing the statutory change on our own.† Typically, we have sought sponsors for our proposed legislation and the sponsor has submitted the bill draft request on our behalf.

 

The first list provides you a summary of the proposed statutory changes we are likely to be pursuing for the 2003 legislative session.†

 

  1. Modification of the Montana Family Education Savings Program

Senator Bohlinger has asked us to increase the maximum annual deduction allowed under the law from $3000 to $5000 and has offered to carry the legislation.

  1. Funding for High School Honors Scholarship program.

As explained during the May meeting, we need additional funding to make this program operate in the way it had been planned.† Additional funding will enable us to make the award renewable without reducing the number of recipients.† We proposed similar legislation for the 2001 session that used the coal trust as a source of funding.† We will consider that and other possible sources of funds.

  1. Funding for Veterans Fee Waivers increase in benefits.

The Board of Regents has expressed interest in broadening the definition of coverage for the Veterans fee waiver benefit.† There is little likelihood that a bill would pass that does not identify a source of funding.

  1. Loan repayment program for teacher recruitment.

See my memo on teacher retention.† This is the most sharply focused of the efforts to assist in teacher recruitment under consideration.

  1. Oversight of trade schools in Montana.

The 1997 Legislature rescinded the responsibility for the Department of Commerce to regulate and maintain records of trade schools operating in Montana.† In 2000 we raised this issue through our Interim Committee and asked for some strengthening of the statute and an increase in the amount of bond required of these institutions.† Our Interim Committee passed it on to the Business Interim Committee which proposed a bill.† Unfortunately, the bill was killed in committee.† Montana is probably the state with the least regulation of these institutions.† At the present time, there are free to operative virtually without restriction.† You may recall that in recent years we have had some widely publicized instances of the closure of these schools in Montana, with disastrous consequences for students.† The Montana Guaranteed Student Loan Program is interested in assuming this oversight and approval responsibility.

 

The second list contains additional items raised by the universities.† We have not as yet had sufficient time to review the specifics of these items with the campuses to determine if we support the changes and if there is consensus among the campuses.

 

  1. †Remove 2% cap on non-resident fee waivers.

To this point the universities have not come close to exceeding the cap and we have questions about the† wisdom and practicality of taking this issue to the Legislature.

  1. Allow university police officers to carry weapons upon hire and clarify the jurisdiction of campus law enforcement officers in areas adjacent to he campus.†

We are not sure there is unanimity among the campuses on these issues and we would want to be sure that we are not appearing to permit untrained officers to carry weapons.

  1. Increases in parking fines or remove establishment of fines from statutory control.

We attempted to remove specific levels of parking fines from the statute in 1999 and the effort failed when student lobbyists opposed it.†

  1. Name changes for the Colleges of Technology in Helena and Great Falls as they have been approved by the Regents.

We are currently reviewing this issue to determine if statutory changes are necessary.

  1. Permit university system campuses to obtain beer and wine permits outside the current quota system.

We have some concerns that this will be seen as easing the availability of beer and wine on our campuses.† It would also seem potentially to conflict with our policy on competition with the private sector.

  1. Uniform state sports agents legislation

Insufficient information about this item to comment.

  1. Amend economic development R & D statute passed last session to eliminate certain EPSCoR language.

Insufficient information about this item to comment.

 

I should also note that this list may change over time.† We will once again review the final list during our November meeting.† While no formal action by the Board of Regents is required, I do believe it is important to document the Regentsí knowledge of these issues and to solicit your input and suggestions.

 

As we move into and through the legislative session, other issues may arise.† I will keep you informed about those issues as they come up.