Part II of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly began last Tuesday, February 7. Following is a summary of WKU Government Relations activities for the week, including details on a number of bills that pertain to higher education.
On Wednesday, February 8, President Ransdell, Jennifer Breiwa Smith, director of Government and Community Relations for WKU, and Robbin Taylor, vice president of Public Affairs attended Governor Matt Bevin’s annual State of the Commonwealth Address. Among the priorities Governor Bevin addressed were tax reform, pension reform and performance funding for universities. Governor Bevin indicated that tax and pension reforms would be addressed in a special session likely to be called later this year. The legislature and Governor plan to address performance funding during the current legislative session.
Achieving passage of the performance funding measure is our highest legislative priority. When the legislature passed the 2016-18 biennial budget last spring, they included a provision to withhold 5% of current year university funds to be distributed based on performance measures. The legislature established a work group comprised of university presidents and the president of CPE, representatives from the House, Senate and the Governor’s office, and the state budget director to develop a performance funding plan. President Ransdell chaired that work group, which issued its report and recommendations to the Governor and legislature on December 1, 2016. You can access the work group report here: http://cpe.ky.gov/data/reports/performancefundingreport.pdf. SB153 was filed last Friday and closely follows the performance-funding model as developed by the Work Group. You can read the full bill here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/17RS/SB153/bill.pdf
Jennifer and Robbin also attended committee hearings on Wednesday, February 8, and Thursday, February 9, to hear testimony on several other bills that we are closely tracking:
- SB17 would essentially require public university governing boards to ensure that students are permitted to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in their assignments and that First Amendment speech rights are protected on campus. SB17 was passed by the Senate on Friday, February 10, and is now in the House of Representatives for consideration. You can read the full bill here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/17RS/SB17/bill.pdf
- HB147 would require all students entering a public postsecondary institution beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year to provide documentation of vaccination for diseases as required by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Religious exemptions are provided for in the legislation. HB147 passed the House Health & Family Services committee and will now go to the full House of Representatives for consideration. You can read the full bill here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/17RS/HB147/bill.pdf
- SB107 pertains to gubernatorial appointments to public postsecondary institution governing boards. SB107 would permit the Governor to remove and replace previously appointed board members to ensure compliance with statutory proportional representation requirements, including political party affiliation and race. SB107 also permits the Governor to remove and replace entire boards if it is demonstrated that a board is unable to perform its statutory duties. The public universities and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) have provided input on this bill, and CPE provided a consensus letter to Senate Leadership with suggestions to improve the processes included in the bill. SB107 was discussed as an information only item in the Senate State and Local Government committee on Wednesday. No further action has been taken as of today. You can read the full bill here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/17RS/SB107/bill.pdf
- SB147 and HB204 are companion bills filed in each Chamber. Both bills are identical and relate to the advanced practice doctoral programs at Kentucky’s comprehensive universities. Currently, the number of advanced practice doctorate degrees offered at the comprehensive universities is capped. SB147 and HB204 would remove that cap and leave determination of degree programs to CPE, consistent with its responsibility for approval of all other academic programs. WKU was instrumental in achieving passage of the original legislation in 2011 that allowed the University to proceed with offering the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. We believe it is in the best interests of Kentucky to allow market demands to drive degree program options, and therefore we support removal of the limit based solely on a specific number of degree programs. We will closely monitor both bills as they move through the legislative process. You can read the full bills here: