Flexibility legislation expected to be introduced next week

Long-delayed bill aimed at increasing efficiency within higher ed

A Colorado Senate bill aimed at increasing flexibility for higher education, anticipated since the start of the current lawmakers' session at the Capitol, might finally be ready to start the legislative process next week.

Members of the University of Colorado's Office of Government Relations say they're optimistic that Senate Bill 10-003 will begin moving through the Senate soon. A draft of the package may be ready as soon as the end of this week.

Kirsten Castleman, senior director of state relations in the Office of Government Relations, said a meeting last week between legislation sponsors and the governor's office went well. The bi-partisan sponsors for both houses are said to be happy with the concepts of the bill as it's readied for review by others.

The legislation would give higher education institutions greater flexibility with tuition, fiscal rules, debt-collection, financial aid allocation, enrollment of international students and more.

The bill had been ready to launch in January, the first month of the session, but was put on hold at the request of Gov. Bill Ritter. He wanted a task force at the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to first have a chance to offer recommendations.

Also at the Legislature:

  • After receiving approval in the House and Senate, a bill aimed at expanding eligibility for nursing teacher loan forgiveness is ready for the governor's signature. The program provides up to $20,000 in loan reimbursement for someone who teaches nursing in a higher-education institution for a minimum of five years. The new legislation only requires that a nursing faculty member be teaching half-time, rather than the old requirement of full-time, in order to take advantage of the loan forgiveness. Nursing programs at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Anschutz Medical Campus could promote such an incentive as a recruiting tool when hiring new faculty.
  • On Thursday, April 1, the House passed the long appropriations bill, the main legislation that will determine the state's budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The bill passed 40-25. Only a few amendments were made; Tanya Kelly-Bowry, the university's vice president for state and federal government relations, noted that the long bill typically attracts numerous amendments from lawmakers. "The members (of the Joint Budget Committee) repeatedly said that since there is no money, there is nothing to fight over," she said. The House version of the long bill does not include any further cuts to funding for CU than those previously made, which is a victory, Kelly-Bowry said. The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.