Legislature passed several bills affecting universities

The¬†fiscal year 2009 budget¬†dominated the headlines as the 2008 legislative session drew to a close at the end of June. However, several bills became law this year that are of interest to the state’s universities.

Christy Farley, NAU’s associate vice president for Government Affairs, provided the following summary of House and Senate bills that affect the universities.

H2008 (Chapter 202) Schools; Alternative Graduation Requirements
Students who fail the AIMS test (or other competency test required for high school graduation) may still be eligible for graduation if a set of alternative requirements are met. Retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008.

H2064 (Chapter 265) E-Learning Task Force
The duties of the Arizona E-Learning Task Force are expanded to include submitting recommendations to the Legislature and Board of Education in the following areas: the transformation of traditional learning to e-learning; options to equip teachers with effective technology and training; revisions to the current system of school funding as it applies to e-learning; enhancing the state’s learning web portal to serve the entire educational system in the state; and collaboration with the Government Information Technology Agency to “express” the technology needs of schools.

H2075 (Chapter 141) WICHE; Continuation
The statutory life of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education is extended 10 years through June 30, 2018. A purpose section states the commission enters into agreements with regional institutions offering graduate or professional education or with compacting states or territories to provide adequate services and facilities of graduate and professional education for the state. Retroactive to July 1, 2008.

H2159 (Chapter 277) State Employees; Personnel Records
Public bodies must maintain records of disciplinary actions involving employees and public officers. Records should include the person’s response to a disciplinary action. The records shall be open for inspection unless disclosure is specifically prohibited by law. Disclosure as defined in this act does not include releasing home address, phone or photograph of persons whose personal information is protected by law.

Note: NAU Human Resources will provide additional information to campus as details of this legislation are determined.

H2230 (Chapter 146) College Textbooks; Selection
By Jan. 1, 2009, policies must be in place whereby the publisher of a textbook or supplemental materials for college courses must provide information about the materials to faculty members or other individuals in charge of selecting texts at a community college or university. The information must include a list of the relevant course material and whether the material is offered separately or only in a bundled package, the suggested retail and estimated wholesale prices, the copyright dates of any previous editions and a summary of the substantive content differences between the current and previous editions. Prohibits faculty or other employees of universities or community colleges from demanding or receiving special considerations (money, gifts, loans, etc.) from publishers.

H2410 (Chapter 135) Open Meetings; Public Opinions
The state’s open meeting law does not apply when a member of a public body expresses an opinion or discusses an issue with the public via the media or technological means if the opinion is not principally directed at or given to another member of the public body and there is no plan for the body to deliberate to take legal action on the issue.

H2736 (Chapter 140) Early Graduation Scholarships; Academic Year
Various changes in statutes relating to early graduation scholarships, including replacing requirement that a grantee or the postsecondary institution must repay any unused grant monies to the fund if the grantee is “no longer in good academic standing” at the institution with language stating reimbursement is required if the grantee “does not complete the academic year.”

SB1277 (Chapter 128) Task Force; Retraining Disabled Veterans
A seven-person task force is created to research and collect information on educational programs to retrain disabled military veterans; communicate and publicize the availability of those educational programs to the community; act as a coordinating entity between disabled veterans, public educational institutions, private educational institutions, private and nonprofit organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies and programs; examine best practices dealing with retraining disabled veterans in other states; and generally assess the extent to which state universities and community colleges have succeeded in outreach to this community. Repeals on July 1, 2018.

S1456 (Chapter 75) Public Records; Storage
Public records kept exclusively on photography, film, microfiche, digital imaging or other types of reproductions or electronic media are exempt from the requirement that they be maintained on standard-sized documents. They must also be protected from loss or destruction in the same manner as other public records. If public records are digitized or microfilmed, the source documents may be destroyed but only after an administrative audit and implementation of safeguards to protect the public records.

SB1484 (Awaiting Action by the Governor) Prime Contracting Deduction; University Improvements
Redirects prime contracting transaction privilege tax revenues associated with the construction of a public university building, constructed with private funds, to the city or town in which the building is constructed to pay for up to 80 percent of infrastructure improvements related to the building construction.

SB1489 (Chapter 201) Divestments; Terrorism Countries; Contract Prohibition
Repeals and replaces statutes requiring the state treasurer and retirement fund managers to report twice annually on their investments and global security risks. New language requires the state treasurer and managers of the state’s retirement plans to adopt a policy to identify and divest themselves of holdings that include companies with investments in countries that support international terrorism (as defined in federal law).