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Update on recent legislation impacting CSU

June 2, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to give you an update on recent legislation that impacts CSU. During the 68th session of the Colorado General Assembly, which adjourned in May, CSU tracked, monitored, and actively worked on more than one hundred bills in order to promote the interests of the University and its employees, particularly in the areas of state funding and employee benefits. We had some successes and some disappointments, and I want to share those with you - but to keep this short, I am highlighting only a fraction of those bills. If you have questions about others not mentioned here, just let me know.

* The state’s budget bill, commonly referred to as the Long Bill, was signed by Gov. Hickenlooper on May 6. As anticipated, one of the key components of the Long Bill is a significant reduction to Colorado’s funding to institutions of higher education, from $644 million in fiscal year 2010-2011 down to $519 million for this coming fiscal year. As President Frank has written in his many emails to campus, we anticipated these cuts would be coming and prepared for them with the budget and staff reductions we’ve already built into our budget for next year. 

While these planned cuts aren’t easy for any of us, the good news is that there will be no further impact to our fiscal year 2011-2012 budgets now that the Long Bill is signed.

* HB 11-1301 (sent to the governor but not yet signed) is the follow-up to last year’s flexibility legislation, SB10-003. This new bill offers flexibility in areas where CSU can capitalize on savings and additional efficiencies, such as a streamlined review process for cash-funded capital construction projects and removing the obligation to buy office furniture solely from the Department of Corrections. This bill also modifies the type of employment positions that may be exempted from the state personnel system, including positions funded by gifts and auxiliary fees.  However, no position is exempted automatically. Instead, an eligible position would be exempted if the position is vacant and the president determines it should be exempted from the state personnel system. 

CSU is evaluating its options, but there are no plans to exempt additional positions at this time.  

* Under SB11-052 (which also has been sent to the governor but not yet signed) the Colorado Department of Higher Education will work to create a new master plan for public higher education and will also outline a performance funding plan for the future. The new master plan will set forth the broad direction that institutions and governing boards should pursue and would incorporate statewide goals, such as access to higher education. The new performance funding plan will tie a portion of higher education funding to meeting the statewide goals in the master plan, but only if funding for higher education is restored to fiscal year 2010-2011 levels ($646 million).

* Last year, all state employees enrolled in PERA were required to increase their retirement contribution by 2.5 percent. As expected, SB11-76 extends that increased contribution rate for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. This creates a real hardship for many of our employees. While we can’t replace the lost take-home pay, we’ve tried to minimize the impact a little by directing any resulting savings to CSU into improved employee benefits and discounts through the Commitment to Campus initiative.

* To avoid another hardship to employees, during this session CSU strongly advocated for legislation that would exempt institutions of higher education from the current “payday shift” statute, which requires monthly and bi-weekly salaries to be paid on July 1, instead of the otherwise regular pay date in late June. Despite our best efforts, that legislation was unsuccessful. Next year, CSU will continue its efforts to try to eliminate the burden caused by delaying salary payments, especially on our valued employees who are paid bi-weekly. This is a high priority for CSU.

* Of importance to our veterans and service members, S.B. 11-24 allows a free day of admission to Colorado State Parks for all veterans for one day each year. It also allows service members who have been wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq free admission to Colorado State parks.

For additional information about specific bills from this past legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly’s website is an excellent resource.

Although the 68th session just recently ended, CSU is already planning how it will pursue the interests of the University and its employees during the next legislative session. All three employee governance groups - Faculty Council, Administrative Professional Council, and Classified Personnel Council - are involved in those discussions and in monitoring legislation that concerns our campus and community.

I want to thank the Council leaders for their hard work this year - and as always, I welcome your suggestions and ideas as we prepare for the next session.


Amy Parsons, Vice President for University Operations