UM System focuses on lobbying efforts

Friday, October 24, 2008 | 5:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:58 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

COLUMBIA — With the upcoming election of a new governor and several state legislators, now is the time for the UM System to launch a strong lobbying effort, President Gary Forsee told the Board of Curators on Friday.

Board Chair Cheryl Walker said the curators will work with the system as well as use their personal relations and connections to the legislature to highlight UM System priorities.

Major legislative priorities for the upcoming year are getting predictable — stable funding, including money for capital projects, and promoting Caring for Missourians, Forsee said.

Caring for Missourians is a reincarnation of Preparing to Care, an initiative to increase the number of health professional graduates from state colleges and universities. During the spring session, legislators ultimately chose not to fund it for this year.

Forsee also stressed the importance of proactively developing policies and legislative solutions instead of reacting to what legislators say and do.

Leaders took comfort in the fact that both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Kenny Hulshof and Democrat Jay Nixon, are MU grads. Stephen Knorr, vice president for government relations, said this spells good news for the UM System.

"They know us, so we're getting off to a great start even before the next governor is elected," Knorr said.

Knorr said the four-campus system will face difficulties over the next few years when many state legislators are term-limited out of office. In two years, Knorr said, at least 109 of 163 state representatives will be newly elected or in the middle of their first term.

"We have a big job as far as getting our message out and educating everybody" on issues in higher education, he said.

Knorr said legislator visits and tours to the four campuses are scheduled so newly elected senators and legislators can meet and visit with faculty and students and see research efforts firsthand.

"This is our opportunity as soon as the election is over for us to get our word in, first shot, at the new members," Knorr said.

Legislators are scheduled to visit MU on Nov. 17.

The board also revisited Forsee's proposal that highlights goals relating to the system's four missions: teaching, research, service and economic development.

The proposal also includes accountability measures that will evaluate each campus against its peer institutions.

Forsee said the proposal, which continues to evolve, will "serve us well" through the upcoming elections and beyond because it paints a clear picture of where the UM System is going.

The board also approved details for two capital projects at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an amendment to the system's collected rules and regulations.

The board's next meeting will be Dec. 11 and 12 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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