Sen. Gilbert Baker addressed University of Central Arkansas faculty and staff members Friday to relay the events of legislative session as they pertain to higher education.
According to Jeff Pitchford, vice president of governmental relations for the university, the session was the first in a series effort to connect various department heads or committee members on legislative matters.
"We will meet to go over bills in an effort to better inform the campus of legislation that effects higher education," Pitchford said. "We hope to connect different sectors and the notion of having a meeting like this is to better share the events of the session."
Committee members from UCA departments were encouraged to contact the president’s office as potential bills came to their attention, so the university might track them.
Pitchford also encouraged staff and faculty to offer their input on legislation as it pertains to their area.
Baker, Budget Committee chair, told the audience this fiscal year promises $125 million in new money for the state.
According to Baker, $7 million of the total is designated for higher education.
Baker said that the amount is "no promise."
"There’s a mind-set not to spend another dime," Baker said. "I’m in for higher education, and I’m one out of 135."
According to Baker, $7 million is a 1 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
When Baker asked the audience what he might do for the school in legislative capacity, UCA President Allen Meadors said most important to the university was to secure equal funding.
Baker said that it has been his position that universities be equally funded or not funded at all.
"I’ve drawn the line in the sand," Baker said. "Some are funded fully and some are less and it is not right."
Baker said a new formula has been proposed that would allow 75 percent funding for all Arkansas universities.
"It hasn’t been decided yet but it was discussed two days ago," he said
Another bill that the university is watching closely is one that would submit institutions of higher learning state regulation and "remove independence."
Pitchford said this is not something that the university would favor, but that it "could come up."
The proposed amendment would replace Amendment 33, which allows for universities to be governed by a board as an independent entity.
Pitchford said the university plans to invite others of local delegation to address the university on a bi-weekly basis as the legislative session continues.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)