Lawmakers begin work for 2017

Proposed budget, bills have ramifications for CU

Proposed changes to laws affecting higher education employment contracts and tuition classification for Olympic athletes are the first measures being supported by the University of Colorado as the state’s annual legislative session gets underway.

The Colorado General Assembly on Wednesday convened at the Capitol for the start of its 120-day session.

“Our Government Relations team is excited to work with the 30 new legislators as well as the 35 we’ve already formed key relationships with for CU, and Gov. Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Lynne,” said Tanya Kelly-Bowry, vice president of government relations. “This session’s big issues will involve funding, transportation priorities and federal changes that will need to be legislated down through the state level. We expect a very busy 2017 session.”

As far as specifics, an early CU-initiated bill addresses higher education employment contract terms. Current law limits the number of term employment contacts to six per campus and system; contract lengths also are limited. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Brighton, this bill would enable more flexibility by exempting contracts for positions funded by revenue from auxiliary activities, such as athletics. At CU, the Board of Regents still would need to approve all contracts.

Other CU-led bills are possible as the legislative session continues.

Meanwhile, CU’s Government Relations team is working with Todd Saliman, vice president for budget and finance, on funding appropriations issues as well. Saliman and Kelly-Bowry will continue to advocate for the university as Gov. Hickenlooper’s budget request is considered, and say they are encouraged and grateful that the proposal includes a $20.5 million increase for higher education.

Of that increase, of which $3.8 million is for financial aid, CU’s four campuses would receive an estimated $7.8 million, an increase of 4 percent over last year’s state funding. The statewide average increase for public higher education institutions would be about 2.5 percent.

The request stipulates $20 million for Level 1 controlled maintenance projects on state college and university campuses, but no state funding for new higher education construction projects.