President Kaler and VP Wheelock present capital request to higher ed committees
This week, the University of Minnesota was asked to present its capital request in both the House and Senate higher education committees. On Monday, after a press briefing at the Capitol, President Kaler and Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock outlined the six proposed projects and the value of state investment in University facilities in the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. On Tuesday, they gave a similar presentation to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. In the House hearing, horticultural science professor Gary Gardner introduced himself as one of the faculty legislative liaisons this session and expressed his support for the University’s request. Minnesota Student Association undergraduate Kelly Stifter testified how the Tate Science and Teaching Renovation project and others like it will improve learning outcomes for students.
Committee members asked a variety of questions, particularly pertaining to the six-year capital planning process, and expressed support for many of the projects. The chairs of both committees will pass on their recommendations for higher education capital investment to their respective capital investment committee chairs in the next few weeks.
Hundreds of advocates attend Legislative Briefing
On February 12, students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered for the 2014 Legislative Briefing to learn about the capital request and how to effectively speak out for it at the State Capitol.
Before the formal program, attendees mingled with students and professors directly impacted by the six capital request projects. These personal accounts brought the projects to life and made it clear that the capital request represents important steps forward in teaching, learning, and research.
U of M alumnus and special correspondent for Twin Cities Public Television, David Gillette, made the keynote address. David entertained the crowd with his unique blend of politics, wisdom, and cartoons.
Budget surplus grows to $1.23 billion
The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget released its latest state budget forecast on February 28. The projected budget surplus for the current biennium grew from November’s projected $825 million to $1.23 billion, a gain of $408 million. The increase came primarily from higher than expected tax collections ($366 million) and a slight decrease in state projected spending ($48 million). The forecast also contained good news for the next biennium; 2016-17 shows a projected surplus of $2.599 billion, an increase of $401 million from the November forecast.
This positive forecast means the Legislature may consider putting one-time cash toward the bonding bill. Also, a surplus means that the State will be in good financial standing when considering the University’s biennial budget request next session.
Senate higher ed committee passes unsession bill
On Tuesday, March 4, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard the higher education unsession bill. “Unsession” is a term used to describe eliminating redundant or obsolete laws to make government more efficient, a priority of Governor Dayton’s this session. The bill, authored by Committee Chair Senator Bonoff, was developed in collaboration with the University, the Office of Higher Education, and MnSCU. The bill contains no controversial items. The University's section of the bill repeals outdated language regarding a railway connecting the Minneapolis and St. Paul sides of the Twin Cities campus. The bill passed unanimously.
“Kill switch” legislation receives hearing
On February 27, U of M Police Chief Greg Hestness testified in favor of legislation that would require new smartphones purchased in Minnesota to have “kill switch,” a function that disables the phone and erases all saved data in case of theft. The phone could be reactivated with a passcode if recovered by the owner. Chief Hestness testified that the lucrative and easy sale of stolen cell phones was one of the main factors in the spike in robberies on and near campus last fall. The bill passed the House Labor, Workplace and Labor Industries Committee and will be heard next in the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee.
LCCMR bill moves forward
Also on February 27, the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee heard the bill containing the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources recommendations to the Legislature, which contains a little over $13 million for a wide range of research projects across the University. The bill was passed onto the House Ways and Means Committee.
Governor Dayton proposes $118.7 million in bonding for the U
Today, Governor Dayton released his 2014 capital investment recommendations. His $986 million bonding proposal includes $118.7 million for the University of Minnesota. The proposal fully funds three of the University's six project requests: Tate Science and Teaching Renovation ($56.7 million), the Campus Wellness Center ($10 million), and the Laboratory Improvement Fund ($18 million). It includes $40 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR). The proposal does not include funding for the Microbial Sciences Research Building ($30 million) or the Chemistry and Material Sciences Building ($24 million). The Office of Government and Community Relations will continue to advocate for the inclusion of these projects in the bonding bill, as well as for more HEAPR funding. The Minnesota House and Senate are expected to release their recommendations once the legislative session reconvenes in February.
This year’s Legislative Briefing will be held 5-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 12, and will spotlight the University's 2014 capital request. In addition, U alumnus and Twin Cities Public Television correspondent for Almanac David Gillette (’01) will present on the complexities of the legislative process in his characteristically engaging style. Throughout the event, faculty, staff, and students will be available to answer your questions about each of the six capital projects in the request.
A complimentary light dinner will be served to those who preregister. Preregister for the Legislative Briefing.
Bill tracking resumes
This week, the House published bill introductions for the upcoming legislative session, marking the beginning of bill tracking in 2014. Our office is responsible for reading each bill, determining its impact on the University, and notifying appropriate U personnel. Please contact us if you have any legislation questions throughout the session.
Governor visits Twin Cities campus to discuss capital request
On Tuesday, January 7, Governor Dayton visited the Twin Cities campus to meet with President Kaler and discuss the University of Minnesota’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The president reviewed the University’s six projects in its 2014 capital request and underscored the need for facilities that meet the needs of today’s students and researchers, in order to strengthen Minnesota’s workforce and industries.
The governor reiterated his support for higher education and the University’s capital request. He also made it clear, however, that the state has received an overwhelming number of requests ($3 billion) and that his recommendations will be limited by the state’s available resources. Governor Dayton is required by law to make his recommendations by January 15.
#HEAPRisCheaper Twitter campaign
In mid-December, the Office of Government and Community Relations launched a Twitter campaign to educate state elected officials about the University’s Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) request. HEAPR is the top priority of the University’s 2014 capital request and full funding would renew over 70 buildings systemwide.
Through the @UMNGovRelations Twitter account and the hashtag #HEAPRisCheaper, each day our office has showcased a University building that stands to benefit from HEAPR funding. #HEAPRisCheaper has engaged University advocates and boosted our request’s visibility among legislators, who often monitor their Twitter accounts personally. If you haven’t already, please follow @UMNGovRelations and retweet our efforts.
Before the 2014 legislative session begins in February, the #HEAPRisCheaper hashtag will become secondary. @UMNGovRelations will launch its #6StepsForward campaign next week, after the governor makes his bonding recommendations. The #6StepsForward campaign will promote all six projects of the University’s 2014 capital request.
State budget forecast released
In its latest budget forecast, released late last week, the State of Minnesota is projecting that it will have a $1.08 billion budget surplus at the end of the current biennium, on June 30, 2015. This will allow the state to finish repaying the $2 billion loan it borrowed from school districts during the Great Recession. Under current law, the state must repay the final $246 million before making any other commitments with this surplus. The state will also repay a $15 million loan from the airports fund with the surplus. After these two loans are paid off, approximately $825 million is available for the Legislature to either cut taxes or to spend.
At a press conference, the governor hinted that he is interested in using the surplus to reduce taxes, as well as spending some of the money on capital projects. He said, however, that he would not propose any specific ideas until after the next budget forecast is released, in early March. Legislative leaders expressed many of the same sentiments as the governor, saying that they would wait to see what the next forecast said before making any firm commitments on what should be done with any budget surplus.
The budget forecast also showed that the state has the capacity to issue up to $1.2 billion in additional debt. This will be important when legislators discuss and determine the size of the bonding bill in the upcoming legislative session. As you may recall, the University is requesting funding for six projects for a total of $232 million.
Senate higher ed committee holds metro campus public safety meeting
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss metro campus safety with the University, MnSCU, the private colleges, and law enforcement. Pam Wheelock, vice president of University Services; Greg Hestness, UMPD chief; and Danita Brown Young, vice provost for student affairs all testified on behalf of the University. The hearing comes on the heels of a series of robberies and other crimes around the University’s Twin Cities campus.
Vice President Wheelock testified that an increase in neighborhood density, fewer single-family households, and more absentee landlords have contributed to increased urbanization of the University neighborhoods. This has driven the University to review how changing demographics, as well the opening of light rail next year, may affect campus safety.
Chief Hestness reported to the committee that the number of robberies this fall is about 39 percent higher than normal - 25 robberies, compared with a median of 18 over the past decade. All but 3 of the 25 robberies occurred off campus. Additionally, Chief Hestness confirmed what other law enforcement officials stated in their testimony: law enforcement officials from the University and Minneapolis and Hennepin County are working closely together to carry out safety measures such as stepping up patrols and conducting safety-awareness campaigns.
Providing testimony from the student prospective was Matt Forstie, chair of the Minnesota Student Legistalve Coalition; Zach Shartiag, student and resident of Dinkytown; and Rachel Sadowsky and Sara Gottlieb, both current students. In their testimony, the students told the senators that many students do walk in groups and carry pepper spray, but still don’t feel safe.
The Office of Government and Community Relations will continue to update local and state policymakers on student safety efforts being undertaken by the University and its partners. We will also work with policymakers to identify possible local or state policy options that could be adopted to further ensure student, faculty, and staff safety.
U professor educates LCCMR on water issues
Professor Deb Swackhamer presented to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) on Tuesday with former State Senator Jane Krentz, who is currently a program coordinator for Great Lakes and Mississippi River projects with the National Conference of Environmental Legislators. The presentation focused on the state of Minnesota’s waters, giving LCCMR members a strong baseline for future policy decisions.
Back in September, Professor Swackhamer held a daylong workshop for all legislators, with a similar focus on water issues. The workshop discussed the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework, a comprehensive report by the University designed to protect and preserve Minnesota lakes, rivers, and groundwater beyond the 21st century.
Capital investment committees tour Minneapolis projects
Over the last few weeks, both the House and Senate capital investment committees toured projects at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. First, the legislators toured Tate Laboratory, where Dean Steven Crouch and Professor Ron Poling explained how the University would use state investment to renovate the building’s obsolete labs and antiquated classrooms into vibrant, flexible spaces. Next, the committees were shown Mechanical Engineering to learn about the potential value of Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding. Dr. Uwe Kortshagen, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, showed legislators examples of how HEAPR funding will dramatically improve students’ learning environments. The tour also included a preview of Northrop Memorial Auditorium to demonstrate the outcomes of HEAPR funding.
Earlier this fall, the capital investment committees visited U of M Duluth and U of M Crookston to learn about capital request projects on those campuses. The committees plan to tour U of M Twin Cities again in February to learn about request projects on the St. Paul campus.
Kaler meets with MMB to discuss capital request
On November 8, President Kaler, Vice President of University Services Pam Wheelock, and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter met with Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Jim Schowalter and State Budget Director Margaret Kelley to discuss the University’s capital investment requests. The meeting offered President Kaler and MMB officials an opportunity to discuss the benefits of the University’s 2014 capital request. In addition, MMB officials learned more about how the University prioritizes its list of projects through a six-year planning process.
MMB is the state agency that assists the governor in developing his capital budget priorities for the 2014 legislative session. The governor will submit his capital recommendations to the Legislature by January 15.
2014 capital request materials now online
As the 2014 legislative session approaches, the University is calling for all students, alumni, faculty, and staff to become informed on the 2014 capital request. PDF summaries of each of the six projects, as well as an overview document, can be found on the Office of Government and Community Relations capital request webpage.
Advocacy is a critical component of securing funding in the legislative process, but it is only effective when efforts are well informed and aligned. We hope that you will take time over the next couple of months to become familiar with these materials and look for more information on the Legislative Briefing in February.
Board of Regents passes 2014 capital request
On October 11, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted to approve President Kaler's proposed capital request plan for the 2014 legislative session. The request includes six projects: Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR); Tate Science and Teaching Renovation; Microbial Sciences Research Building; Crookston Wellness Center; Laboratory Improvement Fund; and Duluth Chemistry and Material Sciences. Governor Dayton will make his bonding bill project recommendations by January 15, and the Minnesota Legislature will begin to hold committee hearings on projects when it reconvenes on February 25, 2014.
Federal and state legislative staff tour TC campus
On September 17, the Office of Government and Community Relations gave state and federal legislative staffers a tour of the Twin Cities campus. Both DFL and GOP caucus staff members, as well as staff from nonpartisan offices, attended the daylong event. The tours and presentations were offered as an opportunity to learn more about the U and the important research and studies currently happening.
The day kicked off with a tour of the recently dedicated Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building. The building demonstrated to the staff the importance of state bonding dollars to attract world-class researchers and the importance of conducting groundbreaking research. Next, staff learned about the Stem Cell Institute, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, and the National Center for Inter-professional Practice and Education. Then they toured the Bentson Communities Innovation Center Nurse Simulation Lab and the Dental School Simulation Center, where they practiced hands-on dental care.
After lunch, the group headed to St. Paul and visited the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, where they learned about the important role the facility plays to ensure both animal and human health in the state. Next, they learned about research in the biosciences and its real-world applications that are being developed at the BioTechnology Institute. Then Dr. Mark Seely shared with the group data about climate change and its long-term affects in Minnesota. The day finished with visits to research plots on soybeans and turf grass.
Senate committee tour concludes; four U campuses visited
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee visited the Crookston, Duluth, Rochester, and Twin Cities campuses as a part of its statewide tour of 17 higher education institutions. The goal of the tour was to help committee members better understand, and see first-hand, the needs of students and families across our state. At each U of M campus, the committee met with the chancellor, toured the campus, and held an open forum for students to express concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas for changes in the higher education system.
2014 Capital Request tours are underway
Pending approval by the Board of Regents in October, the University of Minnesota will seek funding from the Minnesota Legislature for six capital request projects: Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR); renovation of the Tate science and teaching building; a new St. Paul microbiology research building; renovation of the Crookston Wellness Center; laboratory improvements; and a new Duluth chemistry and material sciences building. Last week, two staff members from Governor Mark Dayton’s office toured projects on University’s Twin Cities campus and listened to projects presentations from the Duluth and Crookston campuses. Yesterday, Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Minnesota Management and Budget Assistant Commissioner Margaret Kelly, and several s Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner staff members received similar tours and presentations.
Both visits began with two Google Hangout presentations; Crookston Chancellor Fred Wood gave an overview of the proposed Crookston Wellness Center, and Duluth Chancellor Lendley Black presented on the proposed Duluth chemistry and material sciences building. After the video chat presentations, Dean Robert Elde from the College of Biological Sciences presented the proposed microbial sciences research building to the governor’s staff.
From there, the governor’s staff received a tour of Tate Laboratory, the site of the proposed sciences and teaching renovation project. They also toured the Mechanical Engineering Building, which would receive funding for renovation from the requested Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) appropriation. The tour also highlighted the new Physics and Nanotechnology Building, which received funding from the legislature and governor in 2011.
The second half of the tour took place on the St. Paul campus. This provided a great opportunity for the governor’s staff to see the conditions of the Engineering and Fisheries Lab and the Bee Lab. Both of these labs and the St. Paul greenhouse would benefit from the proposed laboratory improvement project. The tour also included a visit to the Andrew Boss Laboratory, which would receive much needed renovations through HEAPR funding.
Due to time limitations, the tour did not include all the projects that would benefit from HEAPR funding. More tours are being scheduled this fall for legislative committees.
Support the U at the State Fair
The Support the U legislative advocacy network just wrapped up a successful appearance at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. Support the U hosted a booth, staffed by student volunteers, during the five busiest days of the fair.
The, "Be a Fan, Get a Fan" promotion drew large crowds of people to the Support the U booth. The fan’s eye-catching design and the high temperatures contributed to strong demand. One thousand fans were given out each day, and hundreds of people signed up to become Support the U network members.
Senate Higher Ed Committee begins listening tour
State Senator Terri Bonoff, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, has launched a listening tour of college campuses throughout Minnesota to receive input from students and related communities on higher education issues. Senator Bonoff, as well as a handful of other legislators, will be visiting nearly 20 college campuses, including four University of Minnesota campuses. Yesterday, Senator Bonoff and Senator Clausen visited the Duluth campus.