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Education bill passed in legislature

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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COUNCIL BLUFFS — In-state undergraduate tuition at the regent universities will freeze for the second-straight year if a bill approved by the state Legislature is signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

The bill, Senate File 2347, passed in both the Iowa House and Senate in late sessions Wednesday.

The Senate voted to pass the bill 28-21 shortly before 8 p.m. It passed in the House 89-8 just after 8 p.m.

A conference committee approved a bill that allocates an increase in funding of 4 percent for each of the state universities on Tuesday afternoon. The increase in allocations allows for the tuition freeze.

If signed, this will be the first time since 1975 that in-state tuition has not increased two years in a row.

The conference committee comprised three Democrats and two Republicans from each chamber.

The committee settled on the $230.9 million Branstad had recommended for the University of Iowa, which amounts to an increase of approximately $8.9 million over last year, said Joe Brennan, the UI vice president for Strategic Communication.

In total, the bill allocates $538 million for the three regent universities.

UI officials are hopeful the increased allocation will be signed by the governor.

“Right now, at this point, it looks promising,” said university spokesman Tom Moore.

The University of Northern Iowa was allocated an additional $2.66 million on top of the allocated 4 percent increase, said state Board of Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter.

“This has broad base support, not only between legislators but also with the governor,” said Sen. David Johnson, R- Ocheyedan.

The bill had bipartisan support, with two Republicans in the Senate voting to pass the bill along with 26 Democrats.

However, some in Legislature did not support the bill, including Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, the only member of the 10-person conference committee who did not vote to send the bill back to the chambers.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said most of the negotiating in the conference committee was done by Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, and Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, D-Arlington, the co-heads of the committee.

“It’s great news; the regents made us this offer in September,” he said. “We’ve been on board since September.”

Quirmbach said he is confident Branstad, who had expressed support for the bill in his State-of-the-State address, will sign the bill.

“We got there,” Quirmbach said.  “We have a bipartisan deal. We’re making state government work for students in the state of Iowa.”

Rastetter said he was glad the legislators passed the proposal, and the allocation will allow the universities to freeze tuition and receive the funding they need.

“It will allow us to freeze tuition again for the second time in the last 40 years,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly what we asked for, but it is clearly critical.”


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