State round-up: UO legislative priorities continue to move as legislative session nears halfway point

With the five-month legislative session nearing the half-way point, legislators have begun to consider the 2013-15 biennial budgets. Policy committees also continue to consider legislative proposals as the April 18 deadline for bills to receive a hearing in their chamber of origin is quickly approaching. The University of Oregon has made progress on several of its legislative priorities.

Governance: The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee recently adopted a second set of amendments to SB 270, a bill that would grant the University of Oregon, Portland State University, and Oregon State University institutional boards. The latest amendments would also provide Oregon’s other public institutions a path to requesting institutional boards. Meanwhile, a work group convened by State Representative Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), chair of the House Higher Education Committee, continues to discuss the creation of a department of post-secondary education and the role of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

OUS Budget: See article on budget hearings.

Capital Construction: The Governor’s recommended capital construction budget includes revenue funded bonds for the renovation of the Erb Memorial Union, student housing, and the expansion and renovation of the student recreation center. It also includes $11 million in state-backed bonds for classroom expansion in Straub and Earl Halls. The Governor’s announcement on funding identifies the expansion of the University of Oregon’s science library as a further priority should the Legislature choose to allocate additional debt capacity.  UO President Gottfredson, along with the presidents of Portland State University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, and Eastern Oregon University, sent a letter to legislative leadership and the co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee asking for funding for the UO science library and projects at OIT, EOU, and PSU. 

R.A.I.N: The University continues to participate in an effort to create a Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (R.A.I.N.) for the south Willamette Valley. The R.A.I.N. proposal is the product of a collaborative Regional Solutions process initiated by the Governor that brings industry, government, and education leaders together to address an important gap in the innovation economy in Oregon. On March  7, Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school, and OSU Research Vice President Rick Spinrad offered testimony to the Oregon Senate Committee on Business and Transportation, chaired by State Senator Lee  Beyer (D-Springfield). The proposal has been bundled in an "innovation package" with two other initiatives: the Research Collaboratory and the Metals Initiative.  In total the package asks for $15.5 million in capital and lottery funds. Gottfredson appeared with Oregon State University President Ed Ray at the Eugene Chamber’s economic forecast and spoke about RAIN along with other collaborative initiatives. The proposal is contained in the Governor’s Oregon Inc., budget and will be considered by the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Economic Development and Transportation.

Tuition Equity On April 2, Governor Kitzhaber signed into law HB 2787, Oregon’s tuition equity bill. It received final legislative approval in the Senate on March 21. UO President Michael Gottfredson joined Portland State University President Wim Weiwel and State Board of Higher Education member Jim Francesconi on a panel to testify in favor of the proposal before the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. More about the signing is in AroundtheO.

Cultural Trust: On March 12, the Oregon Bach Festival joined the UO Libraries, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and the Oregon Folklife Network in submitting written testimony in support of SB 319, which would extend the sunset for tax credits to the Trust for Cultural Development. The Oregon Cultural Trust was established to support, stabilize and protect Oregon culture and enhance the lives of Oregonians by increasing opportunities to experience Oregon's unique cultural offerings. Since that time, $12.7 million dollars have been distributed and 980 grants have been awarded, helping bolster 60,000 creative sector jobs in Oregon. More details about the Oregon Cultural Trust are included in this article.

Rilling and Saltzman Resolutions: UO graduate and State Representative Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) has introduced two resolutions honoring the founders of the Oregon Bach Festival: Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman. The resolutions are scheduled for consideration before the Rules Committee on April 3, a step towards moving the measures to floor consideration. More about HCR 21 and HCR 22 appeared in the March 18 UO Public and Government Affairs Update.