Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Broke some news this morning and scooped our local paper, the Missoulian. This is a preliminary story; the full story, along with all of my other stories, is available as a PDF upon request.

Legislature approves guns on university, college campuses

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:56 am | Updated: 12:25 pm, Wed Apr 24, 2013.

On the final day of the 2013 Montana Legislative session, both houses passed a bill allowing students, professors, staff and everyone else to carry guns on Montana’s public college and university campuses.

House Bill 240, sponsored by Rep. Cary Smith, R-Billings, passed the House of Representatives with a 61-39 vote and the Senate with a 28-22 vote Wednesday morning.

Under current law, the Board of Regents, which oversees all Montana University System schools, decides whether to allow guns on campuses. If HB 240 becomes law, BOR would no longer have that authority.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said banning weapons at colleges and universities violated the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“We think it’s time that campus administrators got drug kicking and screaming into the new century,” Marbut said.
“They can no longer get away with telling students and (others) they have to move to the back of the bus. They can no longer tell people willy-nilly that when you’re on our plantation, we can take your constitutional rights away.”
The bill includes some regulations to when and where guns can be carried. Weapons must be holstered if they are carried outside of a dorm room or other residence. Roommates must give permission for a gun-owner to keep a weapon in their dorm or apartment. Also, guns would not be allowed at campus events where alcohol is permitted.
Opponents of the bill are counting on Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to veto it.
Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, said he voted against HB 240 for two reasons.
Barrett said the universities, just like any other property owner or private home owner, have the right to keep guns off their property. He also said more guns make a campus less safe.
“I don’t accept the argument that people would be safer if they could arm themselves and defend themselves,” Barrett said. “I think you have to balance that against the probability that if there are a lot of guns around, one of them will get misused.”
This isn’t the only bill this session aimed at deregulating guns in Montana, Barrett added.
Along with HB 240, another gun bill will soon be on Bullock’s desk. HB 205, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, would allow hunters to use silencers and devices to reduce muzzle flash. The Legislature passed that bill and it will now be up to Bullock to veto it, sign it or let it become law without his signature.
It’s not clear which Bullock will do; so far this session the governor has vetoed one gun bill and signed another into law. Bullock’s office did not respond to questions about his plans for the bill in time for this story.
HB 446, sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer, R-Superior, classifies shooting a gun as an act that does not disturb the peace, and is no longer disorderly conduct. The bill  became law with Bullock’s signature.
Kerns introduced two other pro-gun bills this session.
One would have removed the need for a concealed weapons permit, but Bullock vetoed it.
Another bill sought to allow concealed carry of weapons in government buildings, banks and places that serve alcohol. That bill never passed the House.
If HB 240 passes the governor’s desk, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Missoula CollegeState approves $29M for Missoula College, $2.5M for athletes' two-story study area

Pending governor's approval, state decides to pay cash for new campus
The Legislature wrapped up what will likely be its last full week of the session by approving funding for Missoula College Saturday. Both chambers of the Legislature have now approved the bill, and it will be passed to the Gov. Steve Bullock’s office. 
The Senate voted last week to add Missoula College and a building project for Montana State University-Billings onto House Bill 5, a cash bill. The House of Representatives approved the Senate’s amendments Saturday with a 72-27 vote. 
Both projects were originally attached to House Bill 14, the JOBS bill, but the Legislature batted them around, debating whether to pay with cash or bonding, and finally moved them to HB5 just in time to be approved this session. 
“House Bill 5 is now effectively the JOBS bill,” said Asa Hohman, lobbyist for the Associated Students of the University of Montana.
“It passed as a cash bill, HB5, rather than a bonding bill, HB14,” Hohman explained. “Nothing’s really changed — same buildings, same jobs.”
But two big projects from HB14 — a new Montana Historical Society building in Helena and the MSU-Bozeman Romney Hall classroom renovation project — still don’t have funding, Hohman said. 
Once the Legislature gets HB5 to Bullock, he can sign it into law, veto it, let it become law without his signature or change it, which would require approval from both houses. The Legislature would have to be in session to review the changes, and the governor could call a special session for that purpose. 
April 27 is scheduled as the final day of this legislative session, but the lawmakers might choose to adjourn early if they’ve finished the work on their desks. 
Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula and Hohman said they expect this session will end Wednesday.
Wanzenried has been critical of UM for not committing to doing an environmental impact statement to assess the effects of a Missoula College expansion before beginning the project. 
He said he doesn’t expect the governor will change HB5. 
“I don’t think it will be processed in time to go to the governor before the end of this Legislative session,” Wanzenried said. “But given the margins of the votes, I think he’ll sign it.”
Bullock’s office wouldn’t comment directly on his plans for the bill. 
Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, said he’s excited the Legislature was able to pass funding for Missoula College this session.
“It’s very exhilarating to finally get this to the governor’s desk,” Bennett said. 
In addition to providing $29 million for Missoula College, the Legislature also approved three other projects for UM in HB5, totaling $15 million. 
Those projects — the Gilkey Executive Education Center, the Athlete Academic Center and updates to Mansfield Library’s learning commons — will be privately funded, according to Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for communications for the Montana University System Board of Regents. 
“But we still need legislative authority to proceed with those projects,” McRae said.  “Because that’s the way the state’s long-range building plan works.” 
The Athlete Academic Center will be a two-story study center for student athletes, added to the Adams Center, costing $2.5 million. 
The Gilkey Executive Education Center, which cost $9.3 million, will be the site for management leadership classes sponsored by the School of Buisness Administration, the new office of the UM Foundation, and Global Leadership Initiative events. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Global Public Health minorStudents jump into new international minor

    Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:00 am

The first round of graduating seniors in a new, international and interdisciplinary minor was honored Tuesday afternoon in Brantly Hall. Allison Simon and Zoe Yeager will be May’s lone graduates of the Global Public Health program, but many more students will soon follow in their footsteps.
Simon, 22, said she’s enjoyed the opportunity to mix courses from different programs that have a unified theme. As a political science major with a concentration in international relations and a minor in biology, Simon said the program was a good fit.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the development and the health aspects can be combined,” Simon said. “I like how it’s a fusion of science and social science.”
Two courses are required for the minor — one in the political science department and one in biology. For the remaining credits, students can choose from classes in departments such as anthropology, philosophy, pharmacy, social work, Native American studies and health and human performance.
Political Science Professor and Director of the GPH program Peter Koehn said this array of offerings has drawn students from 10 different departments, with the majority studying health and human performance with a community health option.
Koehn said the program grew out of the international development studies minor, whose students were also honored Tuesday, but was based on the popular global health program at Northwestern University.
“This isn’t just something we’re doing here,” Koehn said. “There’s a lot of interest around the country in public health.”
Students here are also showing a lot of interest. Koehn said 32 students have already signed up for the minor, which has only been offered since fall of 2012, and another 15 to 20 are taking courses but haven’t enrolled yet.
Koehn credits the program’s development, through a committee of students, faculty and staff, with its popularity.
“This program is in response to student interest in working overseas and serving overseas. Students want this,” Koehn said. “It didn’t come from above.”
Such strong interest early on means the program could overtake the international development studies minor, which GPH was modeled on, in popularity, Koehn said. IDS is in its seventh year and has 112 students — the most of any unattached minor.
Students of the two programs have formed a new group for anyone interested in the topics, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in the minor. The group, called the Student Coalition for International Development and Global Public Health, will have its second open meeting on May 6 at 6 p.m.
The benefits of internationally-oriented minors aren’t limited to outside the U.S., Koehn said.
“There are lots of lessons that you learn overseas that you can then bring back to your home communities in this country,” he said. “And we need to do a lot more of that.”
Some students are getting ready to do that through the Peace Corps Prep Program.
The GPH courses easily dovetail with the courses for the Peace Corps Prep Program’s health specialization, as senior Nathan Klette has discovered.
Klette, 24, will graduate in August with a degree in health and human performance with a community health option after finishing his GPH minor this summer by doing an internship in India. He’ll also have a health specialist certification from the Peace Corps.
The University of Montana is one of only three schools in the country offering a preparatory program certified by the Peace Corps, according to Brad Haas, UM’s Peace Corps campus representative. The other two are small, private, liberal arts schools on the East Coast.
That puts UM in a unique position to recruit students from across the country to come here for two semesters to earn a Peace Corps certification, then return to their home universities to finish their degrees, Koehn said.
In addition to the health specialization, six other Peace Corps specializations are offered, as well as a generalist certificate.
In his keynote speech at the reception Tuesday, Paulo Zagalo-Melo, the new director of International Programs, emphasized the importance of programs that address issues across cultural and departmental boundaries.
He added that the Peace Corps Prep Program, global public health and international development studies contribute to UM’s strong international focus. 
“Internationalization is not an end,” Zagalo-Melo said. “We don’t internationalize to be international. We do it because it’s part of the mission of universities.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Montana LegislatureSenate flip-flops on dropping Missoula College over weekend

    Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:18 am | Updated: 12:19 am, Tue Apr 16, 2013.
After cutting Missoula College from House Bill 5 late last week, the Montana Senate put the project back on the bill Monday — a concession in the legislative stalemate that kept the fate of the project uncertain. 
As the legislative session draws to a close, the two houses are divided over how to pay for a new Missoula College building, kicking the item around from bill to bill. The House refused to take on debt to build the college, and the Senate refused to pay cash. 
After the Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted Friday to remove Missoula College and three other expensive building projects from HB5, a cash bill for long-range building projects, the college was left without a bill to carry it over the weekend.
But the full Senate voted Monday to add the $29 million Missoula College and a $10 million Montana State University-Billings science building back into the bill. 
The other two building projects, the renovation of a Montana State University gymnasium and a new building for the Montana Historical Society in Helena, are still not included in HB5.
Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, was the only Democratic senator to vote against putting Missoula College back into HB5. 
Wanzenried said the state’s general fund, which pays for the projects in HB5, may not support those pricier projects without cutting something else. He said he worries about the potential environmental impact of the new Missoula College. 
“Nobody really understands all of the impacts that are going to result,” Wanzenreid said. “Once the building’s put there, it’s going to be there, in comparative terms, forever.”
Wanzenried wants UM to commit to doing an environmental review before he would support funding the project by any means — cash or bonding. 
An Environmental Impact Statement is an in-depth analysis of the effects a project will have on the natural and social environments of an area. This includes air and noise pollution, traffic, animal and plant habitats and open space. 
ASUM President Zach Brown said while he agrees the University should do an EIS, Wanzenried’s demand is out of place. 
“The Legislature’s job, and Sen. Wanzenried’s job, is to fund the project during this session,” Brown said. “It is then the University’s job and the community’s job to decide on the location and work out all those issues about (environmental) impact.”
The Legislature can mandate an EIS at a later time or recommended by the Architecture and Engineering Division of the State Department of Administration, according to Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for communications and human resources of the Board of Regents. 
If either of those happens, McRae said the University and the BOR would readily comply. 
Originally, the funding for Missoula College was in House Bill 14, also known as the JOBS bill, which Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, introduced on behalf of Gov. Steve Bullock. The House failed to transmit HB14 to the Senate because it hasn’t been able to get the super-majority required to pass a bill that requires the state to take on debt.
Hollenbaugh said unless Bullock asks, he likely won’t revive HB14 now that Missoula College, one of the central projects of the JOBS bill, has a home again. Several more supermajority votes would be needed in both houses to restore HB14.
The Senate’s final vote on HB5 will come Tuesday, Hollenbaugh said.
If the Senate passes the bill, it will go back to the House for confirmation by its sponsor, Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip. If Ankney accepts the Senate’s amendment, the bill needs to pass the House before landing on the Bullock’s desk. If Ankney does not accept the changes, senators and representatives on a joint committee have to compromise on a plan.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My part in a Friday Kaimin special comprising nine stories about University of Montana's upcoming budget cuts.

Faculty cutsTenured faculty could see workload increase

As the University of Montana’s fall budget gets hacked apart, the only certainty is that no one is truly secure. But the future looks different for tenured professors, adjuncts and administrative assistants or secretaries.
The exact amount of the cuts hasn’t been determined, so departments are trying to plan for fall semester without knowing how much money they’ll have to pay expenses — from salaries to phone bills.

Diane Rapp, an administrative associate in the history department, said her department is considering not hiring a replacement for the two tenured professors who will be on sabbatical next academic year — saving about $35,000, a typical salary for a starting adjunct professor.
Another option is cutting office supplies in order to save on the department’s operating costs.
“I personally am worried that our photocopier might be on the line,” Rapp said. “We’d have to go all the way to the University Center just to make a copy.”
At $17,000 a year, the department’s operating budget is already down to the bare essentials, Rapp added.
“There’s nothing left to cut,” she said. “We’ve been living like this forever.”
Rapp said her union, the Montana Public Employees Association, is asking the Board of Regents for a five percent raise this year and another next year. After 17 years working for the University, Rapp makes just under $36,000 a year and said she’s never gotten a raise of more than two or three percent.
Three professors in the history department earn more than $100,000 a year. Rapp acknowledged that lowering professors’ salaries could ease the budget pains, but said she thinks it would only drag down morale, especially considering UM faculty are already underpaid by national standards.
The situation is similar in the geology department, where office supplies and non-tenure track professors face uncertain futures, according to David Shively, a geography professor and president of the University Faculty Association — the union representing tenure-track professors.
Tenured professors enjoy a much higher level of job security, but if budget cuts were especially deep, Shively said they could still lose their jobs.
“Tenure really doesn’t mean a lot if the money isn’t there to pay faculty,” he said.
He stressed that UM is not facing cuts severe enough to warrant firing tenured faculty at this time.
The more likely scenario is that non-tenure track professors will be laid off. Shively said tenure track faculty would be taking over the classes formerly taught by laid-off professors, but some course sections might be dropped as well.
Non-tenure track faculty include adjunct professors whose positions are not permanent; research professors, who mainly self-fund their work through federal grants; and lecturers, Shively said.
An assistant professor can be promoted to associate professor and can then apply for tenure. The application goes through numerous levels of review, from the academic department to the Board of Regents, and the applicant must show quality teaching, as well as research and service on boards or committees while waiting for a promotion to full, tenured professor, Shively said.
This process is part of the reason College of Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher Comer called academia “the most hierarchical organization this side of the U.S. Army.”
Comer said each department has a teaching load for tenure-track faculty, so cuts wouldn’t force professors to take on so many classes that the quality of their work would suffer.
A common teaching load is two courses per semester, Comer said, but loads vary by department. Any course over the department’s standard load must be negotiated with the professor for extra pay.
Some professors take on extra courses without extra pay.
Marketing professor Jakki Mohr said her department’s standard load is nine credits per semester but she volunteered to teach an extra, one-credit course this spring for no extra pay.
With a salary of $139,389, Mohr is the university’s highest paid professor. But that salary isn’t far from the norm for the School of Business Administration, where 18 professors earn more than $100,000.
In addition to teaching an overload schedule, Mohr’s classes are usually at full enrollment. She is internationally renowned as both a professor and an author and has received more lucrative job offers from several European universities.
As for the potential cuts, Mohr said the department is planning to eliminate the course sections that students will miss least.
“It’s belt tightening and we all pitch in to make sure our students feel little impact,” Mohr said. “Unfortunately, I think the people who feel the pain the most are our short-term faculty.”
Dean Larry Gianchetta of the School of Business Administration said, the cuts could mean a total of six to seven adjunct professors being laid off across the school’s three departments and 25 to 30 sections of electives being cut.
The MPEA union contract dictates a strict process for laying off adjunct professors, according to Quint Nyman, executive director of the MPEA, which is the union representing university staff, including secretaries like Diane Rapp, and non-tenure track professors.
Once the department proves the necessity of cutting a position, lay-offs may begin after a 30-day notice is given. They’re based on seniority, so the person who’s been employed by the University longest can’t be cut first. Laid-off employees receive six months of health insurance and are at the top of the interview list for university system jobs for which they qualify.
“I know people are nervous,” Nyman said. “But there’s actually plenty of protection in there for them.”

Missoula CollegeMissoula College funding bill slides through Republican-controlled House committee

Bill would give UM $29 million to build Missoula College, likely on golf course
    Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:18 am | Updated: 9:29 am, Tue Mar 26, 2013.

The Montana Legislature brought Missoula College one step closer to a new home Friday afternoon.
House Bill 14, known as the Jobs and Opportunities by Building Schools bill, passed the House Appropriations Committee on a 13-8 vote. All eight Democrats on the committee voted yes, along with five Republicans, said committee Minority vice chair Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena.

The bill would provide $29 million dollars toward building Missoula College — part of a $100 million package of college and university construction projects across the state. 
Hollenbaugh said the committee made two amendments to the bill.
One amendment, introduced by Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, establishes an option to pay for the projects with cash, instead of bonding, if the state has the money at the end of the fiscal year. 
“I did that to try to keep this bill alive,” Ankney said. “There’s a big movement to try to cash what buildings we can and not to bond anything.”
While that movement is mostly Republican-led, Ankney said he’s not opposed to bonding.
“I don’t have any heartburn with it,” he added. “I’ve always been a supporter of the bonding bill.”
Hollenbaugh said he supported Ankney’s amendment, although he’s not sure paying cash will be an option.
“I don’t know how much money we’re going to spend in this session,” he said. “But I supported it because if we do end up being in a good cash position, maybe it’ll be okay to do that.”
Because bonding is still a possibility, HB14 requires 67 votes, in place of the usual 50, to pass the 100-member House. Every bill that requires the state to take on debt needs a two-thirds majority to pass. 
Zach Brown, president of the Associated Students of the University of Montana, said he’s happy the bill is moving forward. 
“It’s all cash as far as we’re concerned,” Brown said. “No matter how the Legislature wants to pay for the buildings, we just want the funding for a new Missoula College by the end of the session.”
The other amendment to HB14 removes funding for a new Montana Historical Society building in Helena. Hollenbaugh said the $23 million dollars the bill would have provided for that project will be tacked on to House Bill 5, instead.
Hollenbaugh said he expects the House to vote on HB14 early this week; if it passes, it will then be transferred to the Senate.
The JOBS bill is still feeding controversy in Missoula. If the Legislature passes the bill and provides the funding to build a new Missoula College, construction will commence on the UM golf course, as planned.